Supreme Court Denies ADA Coverage For Correctable Ailments

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 22 limited the reach of a federal ban on discrimination against the disabled, ruling the law generally does not protect people with poor eyesight or other conditions that can be corrected. Protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) usually are restricted to people whose conditions are not readily corrected with medication or devices such as eyeglasses, the justices said in three rulings. Even before the rulings, employers had won the vast majority of lawsuits resolved in court under the ADA, a 1990 law best known for requiring handicap access ramps in public buildings. The rulings bar discrimination lawsuits by two nearsighted pilots, a truck driver almost blind in one eye, and a mechanic with high blood pressure who were either fired or denied employment. The court ruled 7-2 in the pilots and mechanic cases, while the justices ruled unanimously against the truck driver who is almost blind in one eye. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which filed briefs in all three cases, hailed the rulings as a "major victory for employers." Said Steve Bokat, the chamber's general counsel: "The court is applying a common-sense standard to the workplace. Employers make reasonable accommodations for employees who are truly disabled, but they should not have to relax necessary standards for employees who have common and easily correctable ailments."

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