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ADA - a lesson

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Lisa Salberg Find out more about Lisa Salberg
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  • ADA - a lesson

    I was doing some research on ADA and found this case from the 9th Circuit. It is about someone who is diabetic - aka a chronic illness that can be managed with meds - similar to HCM for terms of ADA.
    I was shocked to see the way the courts handled this case and more interesed to see what happened on appeal.

    This is a wake up call to all with chronic illness. It appears that the courts are willing to soften there views on ADA and we can not let this happen. I will be posting more on this topic soon. I have also contacted some organizations in Washington DC on the matter and hope to speak to them in the morning.

    We have lost nothing...YET... but there is a case pending TODAY in the Supreme Court that may really change the scope of ADA. We may need to all do a little letter writing soon!

    Best to all,
    Lisa


    October 22, 2003

    Diabetic Employee Allowed To Proceed On Her Disability Claim Under The Americans With Disability Act

    Issue

    The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently addressed whether a diabetic employee brought forth sufficient evidence to allow her claim that she is disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to proceed to trial. Fraser v. Goodale, (2003 WL 22072079)

    Facts

    Rebecca Ann Fraser suffers from type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes. Because her blood sugar levels are very difficult to control, she must conduct four or more daily blood sugar tests and administer multiple injections daily. After she began working for United States Bancorp (Bank), her supervisor notified her that she could not eat at her desk. One day Ms. Frasers’ blood sugar became dangerously low and she twice asked her supervisor for permission to eat the food that she had in her desk. Her supervisor denied her requests. Ms. Fraser eventually passed out in the Bank’s lobby that day. She complained to her supervisor’s superior about the incident, but there is no indication that the Bank took any disciplinary action against the supervisor. The Bank terminated Ms. Frasers’ employment less than four months after the incident.

    Ms. Fraser filed a lawsuit in federal District Court alleging failure to make reasonable accommodations, retaliation for exercising her rights, discriminatory discharge under the ADA and disability discrimination under Oregon law. The Court held that Ms. Fraser is not disabled under the ADA and granted summary judgment in favor of the Bank.

    Appellate Court Decision

    The ADA defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2). The Court found that diabetes is a physical impairment under the ADA. It concluded that eating is a major life activity and that Ms. Fraser is substantially limited in this life activity because of the extent that she must assess her blood sugar and monitor her food intake. The Court cautioned that its decision does not determine that every diabetic is disabled and stressed that a determination of whether a person is disabled under the ADA requires an individualized inquiry.

    However, the Court found that Ms. Fraser did not show that she is substantially limited in the major life activities of caring for herself and thinking and communicating. She pointed to only four incidents in a five month period where she could not care for herself and only three incidents in the same period when she could not think and communicate. The Court concluded that the sporadic nature of these incidents did not amount to a substantial limitation of a major life activity.

    The Court of Appeals reversed the portion of the lower court’s decision granting summary judgment as to Ms. Fraser’s claim that she is disabled because her impairment substantially limits the major life activity of eating. The Court found that Ms. Fraser presented a genuine issue of material fact that she is substantially limited in the major life activity of eating and that the Bank retaliated against her for filing a complaint. The Court affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment as to Ms. Fraser’s claim that her impairment substantially limited the major life activities of caring for herself, thinking, and communicating. The Court remanded the case so that Ms. Fraser can proceed on her claim, as limited by the appellate court holding, that the Bank’s actions violated her rights under the ADA.

    Under California law, the threshold for meeting the standard for protection under the Fair Employment and Housing Act is much lower.
    Knowledge is power ... Stay informed!
    YOU can make a difference - all you have to do is try!

    Dx age 12 current age 46 and counting!
    lost: 5 family members to HCM (SCD, Stroke, CHF)
    Others diagnosed living with HCM (or gene +) include - daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, sister and many many friends!
    Therapy - ICD (implanted 97, 01, 04 and 11, medication
    Currently not obstructed
    Complications - unnecessary pacemaker and stroke (unrelated to each other)

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