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Welcome to the Spring 2014 edition of the ADA Case Law Digest. The digest features recent additions to the 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 4, ISSUE 1 SPRING 2014 

Title I

Under the ADA, an employer may provide an alternative reasonable accommodation rather than the one requested by the employee. In Noll v. International Business Machines, an employee requested that IBM provide captions and audio descriptions for videos posted on its intranet site. The already provided written transcripts of the videos made it difficult for the employee to follow the videos. He felt he missed key information that affected his performance review. However, IBM had also provided ASL interpreters on demand. The court ruled that the accommodations already provided allows the employee to perform the essential functions of his job and satisfies IBM's legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodation.

An employee must exhaust administrative remedies available before filing a lawsuit. Normally, in a Title I situation, this means that the employee should file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and obtain a "right to sue" letter. However, in Gilkie v. The Golub Corp.; a truck driver with diabetes had his medical certification revoked when a doctor determined his blood sugar level was too high to operate a vehicle safely and was terminated by his employer. He received a right to sue letter from the EEOC and filed an ADA lawsuit. The court ruled for the employer because he did not apply for further review of his qualifications by the Department of Transportation (DOT) set for by its regulations.

Title II

Title II protects individuals from being discriminated, because of a disability, by a public entity providing vocational training. In Johnson v. Washington County Career Center, the plaintiff registered for defendant's surgical technologist program. The plaintiff requested extended time to take tests, an electronic reader, scanning of course materials, and a word bank to use on tests. The defendants either failed to accommodate a number of the requests or denied them altogether, and the plaintiff ultimately failed one of the required courses. The court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment stating that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether the requested accommodations were reasonable.

A plaintiff cannot file suit for employment discrimination under Title II. In Brumfield v. Chicago, City of, the plaintiff claimed that she was fired by the Chicago Police Department because of unspecified psychological problems. The court compared the definitions of "qualified individual with a disability" in Title I and Title II, and reasoned that the definition in Title II could not logistically apply to a claim of employment discrimination. The court also stated that the comprehensive nature of Title I supported Congress's intent that it be the exclusive avenue for a claim of employment discrimination.

Title III

A plaintiff may have standing to challenge the existence of barriers in a place of public accommodation even if the plaintiff does not attempt to enter the public place. In Kreisler v. Second Avenue Diner Corp., the plaintiff filed suit against a diner located near the plaintiff's residence. The diner had several ADA violations including the absence of a ramp at the diner's entrance and an inaccessible bathroom inside the diner. The defendant argued that the plaintiff did not have standing to challenge the barriers because he never attempted to enter the establishment. The court ruled in the plaintiff's favor, finding that Kreisler had been injured and thus had standing because: Kreisler lived near the Diner, visited other diners, Kreisler showed a desire to visit this specific diner and Kreisler was deterred from entering the Diner because of the step. The court also held that "once a plaintiff establishes standing with respect to one barrier in a place of public accommodation, that plaintiff may bring ADA challenges with respect to all other barriers" that affect the plaintiff's disability - which allowed the plaintiff to challenge the barriers inside the diner.

A plaintiff who is a "tester" of the ADA is not necessarily precluded from seeking relief under Title III. In Houston v. Marod Supermarkets Inc., the plaintiff had filed 271 ADA claims over a wide area in Florida. The defendant's supermarket had barriers prohibiting access to those who use a wheelchair. The plaintiff, who lived in another county and 30 miles away, brought a claim seeking injunctive relief. The defendant argued that the plaintiff lacked standing because he was a "tester" and lived a long distance from the supermarket. The court held that the plaintiff had standing because he visited the store two times, and there was a significant probability that he would do so again since the supermarket was 2 miles from the plaintiff's attorneys' offices.

In Alumni Cruises LLC v. Carnival Corp., the court held that an organization may have standing to sue under Title III on behalf of those with developmental disabilities and their families. The plaintiff collaborated with defendant to provide vacations for children and adults with developmental disabilities. The plaintiff alleged that a variety of reasonable accommodations needed to be made by the defendant. The court held that the plaintiff had standing to pursue the Title III claim and could additionally recover for unjust enrichment.





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