Disabling Complexity: The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Its Interaction with Other Federal Laws
123 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2011
Date Written: June 1, 2005
Given the daunting breadth, depth, and sheer volume of federal legislation impacting the labor and employment arena, the task of understanding how all of the federal legislation - not to mention state and local legislation and all corresponding regulations and caselaw - interrelates may be an impossible task even for legal experts. One vital area of federal employment legislation involves protecting the rights of individuals with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) seeks “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” To fulfill the ADA's vision to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, courts must not allow other federal employment statutes to diminish the ADA’s standing in federal law. This Article stresses that when the ADA interacts with other critical federal employment statutes, the ADA should not be relegated to second-class status.
Specifically, this Article focuses on how the ADA affects and is affected by other federal laws. Part I discusses the ADA’s interrelationship to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Part II discusses the ADA’s interaction with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Part III discusses how the ADA naturally incorporates the hostile work environment theory under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the ADA. Part IV discusses the ADA’s relationship to the Social Security Act of 1935. Finally, Part V discusses the ADA’s interaction with the National Labor Relations Act and national labor policy.
When courts interpret the ADA alongside these other federal employment statutes, the results (which inherently determine rights and obligations) are often inconsistent, leading to uncertain expectations and results for those individuals with disabilities. This fundamentally unfair and unsound treatment of the ADA ultimately leaves the promises of the ADA unfulfilled and frustrates employer’s efforts to comply with disability laws. Given the disabling complexity of the vast amount of federal employment legislation, especially the laws impacting America's national disability policy, every citizen must critically ask whether our Nation enjoys a single, clear, effective, and compassionate policy toward individuals with disabilities under the ADA. This Article seeks to ensure that the ADA's interaction with other federal employment laws does not relegate the ADA to second-class status. Instead, this Article maintains that the ADA must be consistently interpreted and applied - especially when it interacts with other federal laws - to carry out the ADA's noble goals to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities. In a phrase, this Article stresses that if the ADA itself is diminished when it interacts with other federal laws, then the rights afforded to individuals with disabilities are inherently and unjustly diminished as well.
Keywords: disability, employer, employee, employment law, ADA, FMLA, OSHA, EEOC, harassment, Title VII, SSDI, Social Security, discrimination, collective bargaining, NLRA, seniority, direct threat, Cleveland, reasonable accommodation, Echazabal, Barnett, employment discrimination
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