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[IP] Scope of Disability Law Questioned

just some stuff to ponder as we debae on who is REALLY disabled and who is 
just a whiner...are does diabetes count as a "impairment that substantially 
limits a major life activity?"  I personally, happen to think YES IT IS.  

Scope of Disability Law Questioned
.c The Associated Press


Vaughn Murphy controls his high blood pressure with medication. When UPS 
fired him as a mechanic and driver, saying his condition made him unfit to 
drive, he sued under the law protecting the disabled.

But is he really disabled?

This week, the Supreme Court considers whether Murphy, and workers in two 
similar cases, are protected by law from discrimination even if they have 
corrected their conditions with, say, medicine or eyeglasses.

The court's eventual rulings will define who is protected under the 1990 
Americans with Disabilities Act: just the severely disabled, or millions more 
with contact lenses, diabetes or hearing aids.

Employers and advocates for the disabled alike are closely watching the 
cases, which will be argued before the court starting Tuesday.

``The importance of this case and the other two is that they will determine 
how open the front door to the ADA will be,'' said Kirk Lowry, a Topeka, 
Kan., lawyer representing Murphy.

Lower courts have come down on both sides of the issue, giving the Supreme 
Court an impetus to step in and clarify the scope of the civil rights law 
banning discrimination against the disabled.

``Both employers and employees need to know what the correct rule of law 
is,'' said Aaron Hughes, lawyer for Karen Sutton and Kimberly Hinton, 
severely nearsighted twin sisters.

Ms. Sutton, of Spokane, Wash. and Ms. Hinton, of Petal, Miss., sued United 
Airlines for rejecting them from jobs as pilots. Their case comes before the 
court Wednesday.

The third case involves Hallie Kirkingburg, a truck driver hired in Portland, 
Ore. by Albertson's grocery stores. Kirkingburg, who has poor vision in one 
eye, sued the company after they fired him.

Employers have fared well in ADA court battles. They have won 92 percent of 
the 700 ADA cases resolved in court from 1992 to 1997, according to a study 
by the American Bar Association.

But now employers fear that victories by the workers in the Supreme Court 
cases could lead to a flood of new lawsuits.

``It will allow a much larger population to claim rights under the ADA,'' 
said Quentin Riegel, deputy general counsel for the National Association of 
Manufacturers, which has filed a brief with the court siding with United 
Parcel Service.

Tthe numbers of people protected by the ADA would skyrocket. Take one 
example: Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population -- or about 152 million 
people -- are nearsighted enough to need glasses.

Employers scoff at the idea that a person whose impairment is corrected 
day-to-day can sue for discrimination under the ADA, which defines a 
disability as an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.

UPS lawyer William Kilberg argues that by the ADA's definition, Murphy is 
``not entitled to the advantages that the statute reserves for people who are 
disabled.'' UPS says Murphy was fired in 1994 because his blood pressure 
exceeded federal regulations for drivers.

But advocates for the disabled -- along with the Equal Employment Opportunity 
Commission -- argue that if someone is fired or rejected from a job because 
of their impairment, that is discrimination.

``Say someone's lost a leg, and they can walk with a prosthesis, they're 
still substantially limited in a major life activity: walking,'' said Ellen 
Vargyas, EEOC legal counsel. ``Most people would accept as a given that that 
person is covered.''

Vaughn Murphy has found another job, fixing utility trucks. But he's still 

``It's blatant discrimination,'' said the Manhattan, Kan., mechanic.

AP-NY-04-26-99 1800EDT

 Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.  The information  contained in the AP 
news report may not be published,  broadcast, rewritten or otherwise 
distributed without  prior written authority of The Associated Press. 


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