Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hot off the press!

Okay, sort of.

A 7th Circuit (Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin) Court of Appeals handed down an Americans With Disabilities Act decision that may provide us with a glimpse of how the judiciary will approach the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008. The claim arose under the ADA, but the Court opined that the outcome would not have changed under the ADAAA.

In the case (Winsley v. Cook County Department of Health), the plaintiff was unable to drive after being involved in a car accident. She was diagnosed with suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Problem? The plaintiff was a nurse who was required as part of her job to drive to/from patients' houses. She was placed on restrictions to only drive to/from work, and the employer insisted that it could not accommodate such rigid restrictions. The plaintiff resigned and then sued under the ADA.

The 7th Circuit performed its analysis under the ADA, finding that driving was not a major life activity and, thus, Winsley was not entitled to the protections of the ADA. The Court went further, though, to state that its decision most likely would not have changed under the ADAAA. Noting that the statutory major life activities of the ADAAA are fundamental to one's every day existence, the Court stated that even the average person would consider him-/herself to be "limited in a material way" if rendered unable to perform one of those activities. Driving--well, that's a different story.

The Court noted that driving is not a right, and that many individuals choose not to drive and do not consider their quality of life diminished. Additionally, driving is one of those activities where performance can be dictated by where one resides, unlike the major life activities listed in the text of the ADAAA.

It remains to be seen whether the other circuits would hold as the 7th Circuit. And, of course, we all await the first opinion interpreting the ADAAA.

Until then, happy navigating!

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