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More ADA Cases on Supreme Court Slate for 2001-2002

  • January 8, 2002

In addition to the case decided on January 8 involving an employee with carpal tunnel syndrome, the U. S. Supreme Court is expected to issue rulings in two more cases involving claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act before it concludes its current term at the end of June, 2002.

Those cases involve two other major aspects of the federal disability discrimination law:

  1. does the ADA require an employer to make a "reasonable accommodation" if to do so would violate an existing bona fide seniority system (US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett, Docket No. 00-1250);
  2. does the ADA allow an employer to exclude from a particular job a disabled worker who faces a potential threat to his own health or safety but does not pose a "direct threat" to anyone else in the workplace (Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Echazabal, Docket No. 00-1406).

In the first case, the justices will attempt to strike a balance between the ADA's mandate that employers make reasonable accommodations for otherwise qualified individuals and a valid seniority system, which otherwise would prohibit such actions. The second case will test the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's interpretation of whether the "direct threat" defense applies to an individual who poses a danger only to himself and not to other co-workers. That defense enables an employer to take adverse employment action against an individual who might otherwise be protected by the ADA.

For more information, please visit the U. S. Supreme Court website.

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