This week in 1999

This past week has been very influential in shaping the kinds of freedoms and rights that People with Disabilities (PwD’s) receive in the American workforce today. In particular, there were three significant Supreme Court decisions that were made during this past week in 1999.

The first case decided was Albertsons, Inc. v. Kirkingburg. This case was trying to determine weather a company was requires, under section II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is required to be lenient with federal safety regulations when hiring a person with a disability who does not, without accommodation, meet the required safety requirements. In the decision, the Court decided that no, not everyone who claimed to be disabled under the ADA was truly disabled, unless they brought sufficient evidence that was to be examined by a potential employer on a case by case basis. This ensured that companies were, hopefully, not going to be accused of discrimination in hiring since the decision about a person;s protection under the ADA (and therefore discrimination in hiring) was to be done on a case by case basis.

The second major disability related decision was made on June 25,1999 was Bragdon v. Abbott. This case involved the case of an HIV positive dental patient and weather altering her treatment (performing it in a hospital rather then a dentist office) violated that equal treatment clause of the ADA. The 5 – 4 decision by the Supreme Court showed that the ADA does not require practitioners to treat patients who directly pose a threat to the health of other, but that the ADA also protects a disabled individual from discrimination in a public place (such as a dentist office.)

The final disability related case was decided on June 22, 1999. Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc. invoked twin sisters whose vision was worse the 20/200, but with corrective instruments was good enough to allow them to apply for commercial piloting jobs at United airlines. The major question in the case was weather the definition of a disability – as defined by the ADA – was to be applied to an individual’s circumstances before or after corrective measures were taken. In a 7 – 2 vote, the Court found that an individual’s status as being disabled or not, under the ADA, should be made after all attempts at corrective methods were made.

Of course, the most well known disability related Supreme Court case was Olmstead v. United States, which made the integration of people with disabilities into society more obtainable with reasonable accommodation. This case was further explained in my last post.


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