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Welcome to the second edition of the ADA Case Law Digest where we feature recent cases added to ADA Case Law Database. The database is a comprehensive search tool that allows the user to find significant court cases, settlement agreements, and consent decrees that help interpret the Americans with Disabilities Act. The database and the digests are produced through the collaboration of the Great Lakes ADA Center and the Southwest ADA Center.

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  VOLUME 1, ISSUE 2 WINTER 2011 

Title I

In a different twist to most ADA employment cases in Roman-Oliveras v. Puerto Rico Elec. Power Auth., an electronic company allegedly harassed its employee because of his union activities, not because of his disability. However the one of the methods in which they harassed him involved his disability. The plaintiff had worked 22 years for this company while receiving regular treatment for his schizophrenia which had been diagnosed 30 years earlier. In retaliation for the union activities, the electric company allegedly made his life difficult until finally barring him from working pending a psychiactric evaluation. Despite being cleared by his psychiatrist to work, the company physician then required a medical clearance to work around asbestos. After that clearance, the employer still wouldn't allow the plaintiff to work pending more additional psychiactric evaluations. The appellate court saw these actions as evidence that the employer regarded the worker's schizophrenia as substantially limiting his ability to work and allowed him to proceed with his lawsuit under the ADA.

Title II

In A Society Without a Name, For People Without A Home Millennium Future-Present v. Commonwealth of Virgina, the city of Richmond, the state of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) collaborated to build a new center for the homeless and close the old one down. Sounds like progress, right? Except the old center was in beautiful downtown Richmond close to campus and easy to access for the homeless, while the newly constucted center is further away. However, VCU promised to provide transportation for people in downtown to reach this new center. An advocacy group had sued the three entities under the ADA because it alleged that the collaborative didn't want homeless people downtown and the general public regards homeless people as disabled due to mental illness, alcoholism, and substance abuse. An interesting argument but these claims were time-barred under the Virginia state statute of limitations since the lawsuit was initiated more than one year after the new center was built. After the lawsuit was filed, VCU rescinded its transportation promise. The court ruled that rescinding a gratuitous promise was not considered retaliation under civil rights laws. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its 196th settlement agreement under Project Civic Access with Upshur County located in northeast Texas. Project Civic Access is an initiative by the DOJ to ensure that communities throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DOJ considers access to civic life as a fundamental part of American society and that people with disabilities must have the opportunity to participate in local government programs, services and activities. As part of the settlement, the county agreed to modify its facilities and adopt policies and procedures to provide access to people with disabilities. It also agreed to appoint an ADA coordinator and establish a grievance procedure which had been required by the ADA for public entities with 50+ employees since 1991. A woman who was forced to wait almost two hours with her service dog before granted access to a courthouse found out that bureaucratic ineptitude was not necessarily an ADA violation in Sears v. Bradley County Government. The security guard had never experienced a service animal in the past and had to get clearance from the local judge. The judge had to go take lunch first before considering the clearance.

Title III

Fashion sometimes does not make sense or cents. Abercrombie & Fitch is a popular clothing retailer geared to the younger demographics with their edgy marketing. Sometimes shoppers are greeted by topless male greeters at the entrance which can be quite a difference for those who are used to shopping at Wal-Mart. Abercrombie has gotten in trouble in the past due to their employment practices with regards to race and religion. Recently, in Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition vs Abercrombie & Fitch Co., two stores violated the ADA by having inaccessible front entrances. For whatever reason, instead of the typical mall store open space entrance, they built a raised platform porch entrance that requires people to go up the steps to the porch and then go back down from the porch to get into the store. Wheelchair users can use unmarked side entrances that looked like window shutters. Abercrombie had argued that the ADA regulation requiring the main entrance to be accessible is "aspirational," not mandatory. In Argenyi vs Creighton University, a medical student with a hearing impairment had requested interpreters for his classes and clinics. He paid for his own interpreters for the first year while the school considered his request. They agreed to provide interpreters in the large class setting but refused to grant them in the clinical setting because it would better prepare him for his professional career. This would seem to imply that the school thinks that he would work without interpreters in the clinical setting throughout his career. The court ruled for the school on this issue because the student couldn't show that the interpreters were necessary in that setting because he still passed his clinical classes. Is the general purpose of class to learn things or to get a passing grade? The U.S. Department of Justice in November and December reached settlement agreements with many different bus companies on their compliance with the ADA. The DOJ conducted supplemental investigations based on referrals from the Department of Transportation when they were doing safety compliance investigations. The majority of the DOJ investigations revealed that the buses were not accessible to people using wheelchairs and that these companies did not have alternative arrangements with other carriers to serve these customers.



Other Disability Law Websites
These cases represent an excerpt of the additions to the database. If you would like to learn more about these cases and others, please visit the ADA Case Law Database at http://www.adacaselaw.org