|VOLUME 2, ISSUE 3||WINTER 2012|
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) often face stressful situations. In In Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Authority, an EMT had entered into a romantic relationship with a coworker and other employees expressed concern about her well-being. She also had a driving incident where she was screaming into the phone while transporting a patient. Her supervisor ordered her to undergo counseling as a requirement of keeping her job, but she had to pay for it and then authorize the disclosure of her records to confirm attendance. She sued her employer for firing her after she refused to attend counseling. Under the ADA, the employers cannot conduct medical examinations and or make inquiries into whether a person has a disability unless it is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity. The Sixth Circuit ruled that determining whether the required counseling qualified as a prohibited medical examination or inquiry was an issue for trial.
Reassignment was considered in Kallail v. Alliant Energy Corporate Services, Inc. even though the employee did not specifically request it. The employee could not work a rotating shift schedule due to his diabetes maintenance and requested a straight shift schedule. The employer offered reassignment to another position with a straight shift schedule on numerous occasions but the employee refused a different position and he was fired. The court determined that the rotating schedule was an essential function of his position and that the employer fulfilled their obligations by offering him a reassignment that met his needs.
In Pulczinski v Trinity Structural Towers, Inc., a painter needed to miss work to take care of his child who had a disability. After several absences, he accrued FMLA leave. This painter also supervised a group of painters. He would discourage them to work overtime because that would mean that he would have to work more hours to supervise them; hours that he may not be able to work. His employer fired him afterwards, allegedly for slowing down the project with his actions. The painter sued under the ADA for firing him because of his son. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the employer because the employee could not prove their reason for firing him was pretext.
Title IIAn important function of law enforcement is to serve and protect its citizens. Police departments are often criticized for not being adequately trained to respond to and interact with people with disabilities. However, the person with a disability also has an obligation with respect to law enforcement. In Bahl v. County of Ramsey, a deaf driver did not produce identification when asked to do so at a routine traffic stop and was tased after trying to reach for a pen and paper in his car. That's one form of effective communication he doesn't want repeated. The officer had gestured for an ID and the driver was familiar with traffic stop procedure after having been stopped numerous times in the past. After he was arrested and put in jail, the police then did the post-arrest interview with pen and paper instead of providing him an interpreter as requested.
In Cinnamon Hill Youth Crisis Center, Inc. v. Saint George City, a non-profit group applied to a city for a variance to operate a youth residential addiction center out of a motel that it owned. A city zoning ordinance limited motel stays to no more than 29 days, and the city denied the variance. The court ruled for the city because the plaintiffs did not show that the city would have behaved any differently if the group had ran a residential center for people without disabilities. Allowing the variance to stay more than 29 days would not be a reasonable modification because people without disabilities could not get that same benefit.
When a public entity makes renovations to its facilities, it has the obligation to make the changes accessible to the maximum extent feasible. However, the determination of what is feasible is done at the time of construction not after the fact. In Hip Heightened Independence and Progress, Inc. v. Port Authority of New York, the port authority made renovations to a train station but did not install elevators to make the station accessible because they did not have the property rights to safely install them. Another public entity owned it. They later acquired those rights after the construction was finished.
Title IIIDisney has had to defend against two separate ADA lawsuits due to its Segway ban at its resort properties. One lawsuit stems out of Disneyland in Anaheim, California while the other stems out of Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. Disney defends its ban based on safety consideration for its guest, and this affects customers with disabilities who rely on Segways as their mobility device. In the Disneyland case, Baughman v. Walt Disney World Co., the Ninth Circuit ruled that public accommodations must consider evolving technologies that improve the lives of people with disabilities. It had reversed a lower court decision that the plaintiff did not prove that her Segway was necessary for the full use and enjoyment of the Disney resort.
However, down in Disneyworld, the Eleventh Circuit approved a class action settlement that upheld the ban in Ault v. Walt Disney World Co.. The settlement allowed Disney to substitute people's Segway with their own four-wheeled device that would still allow them to stand. However people would have to rent these devices. So basically, Disney would not let people bring in their personal devices but offers these alternative devices as a reasonable modification. Then they apply surcharges on them in the form of rent when the ADA normally prohibits surcharges because they're considered personal devices. The court allowed the settlement because Disney had legitimate safety concerns. Did the court know that Disney offers Segway tours at one of its parks?
It is often said by courts that the ADA doesn't prescribe a civility code with public accommodations in their dealings with customers. That is the exact reasoning the Second Circuit used in Krist v. Kolombos Rest. Inc. when a woman with a service animal sued a restaurant he frequented with a service animal. She said the restaurant workers' attitude towards her changed after she first brought the animal, they attempted to restrict her access, and they verbally harassed her. However, she was still able to frequent the establishment and sat at her favorite table with her dog for hours at a time so the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her case.
If you would like
to learn more about
these cases and others,
please visit the
Great Lakes ADA Center
University of Illinois Chicago
1640 West Roosevelt Road, Room 405
Chicago, IL 60608
Southwest ADA Center
Independent Living Research Utilization
2323 South Shepherd Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77019
Phone: (713) 520-0232 (V/TTY)
Fax: (713) 520-5785
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