Americans with Disabilities (ADA)

The sci-fi film Minority Report envisions the year 2054, when the U.S. government uses predictive foreknowledge of “precogs” to apprehend criminals before their crimes are ever committed, thereby reducing future harm. More than 15 years after the popular film was made, the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Shell v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company arrives at a similar result. The Shell court held that employers do not violate the ADA when they use current predictors of future disabilities, such as obesity, to reject candidates for employment, thereby reducing future costs. This ground-breaking opinion opens the door for employer use of predictive tools such as genetic testing and AI algorithms to discern which applicants or employees are most likely to develop future (costly) disabilities, and exclude them from the workforce before disabilities arise, and before legally protected status attaches. In other words, the opinion allows employers to exclude someone based on a status of “likely to develop a future disability,” without violating the ADA, because the individual does not currently have the status of “disabled.”

Continue Reading The future is now: Employer use of present-day medical information to predict future disabilities does not violate the ADA

On Tuesday August 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a claim for disability discrimination, where the plaintiff was deemed psychologically unfit for duty and subsequently had his employment terminated. The Third Circuit’s decision provides guidance for employers regarding the extent of their obligations to accommodate employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

In McNelis v. Pennsylvania Power & Light Co., No. 16-3883 (3d Cir., Aug. 15, 2017), the plaintiff, an armed security guard for a nuclear power plant, sued his former employer for disability discrimination following his termination.  McNelis had experienced mental health problems, including extreme paranoia.  His behavior prompted a fitness-for-duty evaluation by an independent psychologist, which was required under PPL policy, as well as under regulations promulgated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The psychologist determined that McNelis was unfit for duty, and his employment was terminated shortly thereafter.
Continue Reading Third Circuit Finds No ADA Violation Where Employee Deemed Unfit for Duty

Julia Fradkin contributed to the content of this post.

The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) hit the shelves of doctors’ offices and has created additional headaches for employers already struggling with accommodating claimed mental disabilities. The DSM-5 is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals and is the single most important guide in diagnosing mental disorders. The newest edition replaces the DSM-IV, in operation for almost two decades, and it supposedly “better characterize symptoms and behaviors of groups of people who are currently seeking clinical help but whose symptoms are not well defined by DSM-IV.”

Continue Reading ‘New’ Mental Disorders To Spark Increased ADA Accommodation Requests

On March 15, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice’s amended Final Rule substantially revising and expanding the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act will become effective. Compliance, however, is not mandated until March 15, 2012. Among other substantive changes, the amended regulations adopt the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which implement new accessibility guidelines for government facilities and commercial places of public accommodation. In addition, the amended regulations address numerous accessibility issues, including selling and issuing tickets to individuals with disabilities; accommodating service animals, wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices; providing auxiliary communication aids; and making reservations in places of lodging.

Continue Reading Revised ADA Regulations to Take Effect March 15, 2011 in the United States

On January 10, 2011, employers will become subject to new regulations issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) that interpret the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”). Employers must now comply with GINA’s tough restrictions on the acquisition, use, and disclosure of genetic information about applicants, employees, former employees, and all such individuals’ family members. In particular, employers must take affirmative steps to avoid receiving genetic information about applicants, employees, or any of their family members.

The following addresses some key questions about how the new EEOC regulations will affect employers.

Continue Reading New EEOC Rules Require U.S. Employers To Revise Procedures for Acquiring and Using Medical Information

Acting swiftly on one of his campaign promises, President Obama today signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (S. 181). The new law will increase the number of pay discrimination claims, make them much more difficult to defend, and force employers to retain records relating to compensation decisions far longer than they have in the past. In