[I]n recent years, many courts have refused to assist people without serious disabilities. The reason is the language of the ADA, which only covers disabilities that "substantially limit" important activities such as work. Often, judges have interpreted it to exclude anybody whose impairments can be corrected.
That narrow legal reasoning has put many people with treatable disabilities in a Catch-22. Just because someone can lead a relatively normal life doesn't mean they don't face workplace discrimination as a result of their disability. "A person is judged too disabled to qualify for work but not disabled enough to be covered by the
act," says Catherine A. Hanssens, director of the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund. Taken to its extreme, the employers' position would have the law cover only persons with disabilities so severe they can barely work, thereby rendering the law almost meaningless. . . .
By narrowly construing the ADA, the courts are preventing many able-bodied people from pursuing productive careers. Consider the case of Vaughn Murphy, who sued Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc. after the company fired him as a truck mechanic in 1994. . . . His job included road tests of the trucks he fixed, and UPS said Murphy's blood pressure exceeded federal standards for driving. Murphy counters that the driving took up only 1% of his time, so it would not have been expensive to hire another driver.
"Truck work has been my life. When you've dedicated 23 years, it's hard to up and change your occupation," says Murphy, who eventually found another mechanic job. UPS attorney William Kilberg says that Murphy understates the amount of driving that his old job required and that if the Supreme Court rules against the company, it "would be a blow to a company's ability to set quality standards."
-Reprinted from April 26, 1999 issue of Business Week, by special permission, copyright © 1999 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Examining the Newsclip
1. Analyzing Information How has the government attempted to reduce the effect of discrimination against disabled workers in our society?
2. Drawing Conclusions In your opinion, have these efforts been successful? Why or why not?
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