American Diabetes Association Urges Congress to Pass ADA Restoration Act, Help End Employment Discrimination Against Americans with Diabetes
November 15, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Stephen Orr, fired for managing diabetes at work but whose claim was thrown out by the courts, will testify today before Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee about his experience
The American Diabetes Association today will reiterate its strong support for the ADA Restoration Act, legislation that would restore the intent of the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. Senate Committee on HELP will hear testimony about pending legislation that would ensure that everyone who is qualified for a job has an equal opportunity to work, regardless of disability. Since the original legislation was enacted, a series of Supreme Court rulings have limited the criteria for who is covered by the law, resulting in many individuals with chronic diseases – including diabetes – no longer protected because they don’t meet the stringent definition of disability. Their cases are dismissed by courts that never reach the issue of whether they were treated unfairly.
At today’s hearing, Senate members will hear testimony from Stephen Orr, an Association volunteer from South Dakota who was fired from his job as a Wal-Mart pharmacist for taking lunch breaks that were necessary for him to avoid dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). Orr was explicitly fired because of his diabetes. He responded by filing a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act but lost when the courts ruled that he was not “disabled” since his diabetes could be successfully managed with insulin and diet. Orr never had the opportunity to try to establish that, with a small, reasonable accommodation, he would have been able to both fully perform is job and protect his health and safety.
“I wish my case was unique but it is not,” Orr said. “Too many people have had their ADA claims dismissed because they were found by the courts not to be sufficiently disabled under the courts’ misguided interpretation of the definition of disability under the ADA. Congress must restore the ADA to what it was intended to be – a comprehensive mandate to protect all Americans from discrimination based on disability.”
The Association has come out in strong support of the ADA Restoration Act, S. 1881, since its July introduction by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). The legislation would amend the definition of “disability” so that individuals who Congress originally intended to protect from discrimination – like Stephen Orr – are covered. It would also prevent the courts from considering “mitigating measures” when deciding whether an individual qualifies for protection under the law, and it would realign the focus in employment cases with whether an individual can do the job in question safely and effectively regardless of disability.
“The Supreme Court has created an absurd Catch-22 for individuals with diabetes and other chronic illnesses,” said John Griffin, Chair of the Association’s Legal Advocacy Subcommittee. “We have a cruel situation where the better people manage their disease, the less protection they have against discrimination because the courts are saying they aren’t “disabled” enough. When the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, the purpose was to protect individuals’ rights to be judged on their abilities so as to stop discrimination. Since then, the courts have severely watered down those rights, and it is inexcusable for Congress to ignore it any longer.”
The American Diabetes Association is committed to ending discrimination against all people with diabetes.
The Association would like to thank Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Michael B. Enzi (R-WY) for holding the hearing and Senators Harkin and Specter for their introduction of the bill.
About the ADA
The American Diabetes Association is the nation’s premier voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy. Founded in 1940, the Association has offices in every region of the country, providing services to hundreds of communities. The Association’s commitment to research is reflected through its scientific meetings; education and provider recognition programs; and its Research Foundation and Nationwide Research Program, which fund breakthrough studies looking into the cure, prevention, and treatment of diabetes and its complications. For more information, visit diabetes.org or call 800-DIABETES (800-342-2383).
The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to Stop Diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. For the past 75 years, our mission has been to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.