Supreme Court to Hear Argument in Major Test for ADA
19 Civil Rights Groups Join Anti-Discrimination Struggle
"When Congress created the ADA, it knew states still were discriminating against their workers with disabilities and disabled people seeking state services, including those with HIV/AIDS. This law was enacted to curb such irrational mistreatment," Catherine A. Hanssens, Lambda's AIDS Project director, said before the argument.
Hanssens authored Lambda's amicus brief, joined by 19 other civil rights groups including the ACLU, the Anti-Defamation League, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and People for the American Way, which argues that Congress acted appropriately in passing a federal law banning disability-based discrimination by states as well as private businesses.
She stressed that the importance of the ADA as a tool against HIV-related state discrimination makes this case particularly critical for Lambda clients.
The plaintiffs in the case, state employees Patricia Garrett and Milton Ash, won in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the state of Alabama appealed, arguing that the ADA provision asking states to provide "reasonable accommodation" for state employees is an unconstitutional encroachment of states' rights.
Garrett, a nurse at the University of Alabama, was encouraged to leave her job once the university found out that she had been diagnosed with cancer. After taking an unpaid leave of absence for treatment, she was demoted. Ash, a security guard who has severe asthma, sleep apnea and other health problems, asked his employer to enforce a no-smoking rule and maintain the truck he must drive so he would not get sick and be forced to leave his job.