by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

Three recent ADA rulings have implications for the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA). They are Schneider v. Giant of Md. [2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 15546, 7/26/10], Nyrop v. Independent School District [2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 16114, 8/4/10)] and Kirkeberg v. Canadian Pacific Railway [2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 17909, 8/27/10]. Each case was decided under pre-ADAAA rules, and that’s what makes them interesting.

In Schneider v. Giant, the 4th Circuit ruled that a diabetic pharmacist was not disabled within the meaning of the ADA. The court ruled that Diabetes “is not per se a disability under the ADA because a ‘person whose physical or mental impairment is corrected by medication or other measures does not have an impairment that presently “substantially limits” a major life activity' ”. Similar rulings were rendered in Nyrop v. Independent School District for a teacher suffering from multiple sclerosis and in Kirkeberg v. Canadian Pacific for an EAP program administer. In Nyrop, the 8th Circuit ruled that the plaintiff was not substantially limited because “she continued teaching without significant interruption, her symptoms were intermittent and short in duration” and her early symptoms were ameliorated with various accommodations provided by the employer. In Kierkeberg, the 8th Circuit ruled that the plaintiff was able to use monocular cues to self-accommodate for loss of binocular vision.

In each case, the court ruled that the ADAAA, which took effect on January 1, 2009, could not be applied retroactively. Prior to the ADAAA, Supreme Court precedents in 1999 (Sutton v. United Airlines, Murphy v. UPS & Albertson’s v. Kirkingburg) dictated that impairments must be assessed in their mitigated states. For example, a person with Diabetes would not be substantially limited while taking insulin, unless the individual could prove there were substantial side effects of the insulin, or limiting effects persist despite the insulin. The ADAAA dictates that impairments must be evaluated in the non-mitigated states (or irrespective of the ameliorative effects of medication or self-adaptation). Therefore, it is likely that each plaintiff could satisfy the substantial limitation test under post-ADAAA rules.

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