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Sixth Circuit Eases Plaintiffs’ ADA Burden; Proof of “Sole” Cause No Longer Required

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently adopted the “but for” causation standard for claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the federal appellate court with jurisdiction in Ohio, the plain language of the ADA does not provide that a plaintiff must prove that his or her disability was the “sole” cause of the adverse employment action. Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., No. 09-6381, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (May 25, 2012).

D.C. Circuit Clarifies ADA Causation Standard

On December 9, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a lower court’s entry of judgment in favor of George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (GWU) on claims brought by Carolyn Singh, a former medical student, for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in Singh v. George Washington Univ. Sch. of Med. & Health Scis. This recent decision, the second D.C. Circuit decision in the Singh case, offers valuable guidance to higher education institutions with regard to accommodation of students with learning disabilities.

Short-Term Pregnancy Complications Found Not to Be a Disability

In a case of first impression in a court of appeals, the Seventh Circuit recently ruled that pregnancy-related complications can rise to the level of a "disability" within the meaning of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). However, such complications, if they are of limited duration and dissipate once a woman gives birth, may not be "substantially limiting." Under those circumstances, no "disability" exists and no duty of reasonable accommodation is owed.

Under the ADAAA, individual with episodic disability does not have to be "substantially limited" at the time of complained-of adverse action.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) clarified the ADA in a number of ways. In one significant clarification, the ADAAA provides that “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.” Based upon that wording, a federal district court in the Northern District of Indiana has held that an employee with cancer is considered to be disabled under the Act, even if his condition is in remission at the time of he alleged adverse action taken against help by his employer.
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