Rescue the Americans with Disabilities Act from Restrictive Interpretations: Alcoholism as an Illustration

79 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2014

See all articles by Judith J. Johnson

Judith J. Johnson

Mississippi College - School of Law

Date Written: 2007


This article will examine the disease of alcoholism generally in Section II, the ADA generally in Section III, and Supreme Court cases interpreting the ADA and the lower court cases concerning alcoholism and the ADA in Section IV. These sections will show that judicial interpretations have virtually eliminated alcoholism as a disability, contrary to obvious Congressional intent. While this phenomenon is not limited to alcoholism, it is a useful illustration of the damage judicial activism has caused in this area.

Section V will analyze and propose a solution that can be accomplished without a change in the legislation. Requiring the plaintiff to prove that he has an impairment that significantly limits a major life activity has become an obstacle for most plaintiffs, but there are two alternatives to entry into the protected class of disabled persons: being regarded as disabled or having a record of a disability. These provisions should be interpreted more generously to prevent people from being discriminated against because of perceived disabilities. People who are regarded as disabled or who have a record of a disability are people who can work but are being discriminated against because the employer thinks they cannot do the job. Congress was very clear that this was the type of discrimination that was intended to be especially prevented.

Section VI concludes that once employers discover that their employees with impairments such as alcoholism are no longer protected by the ADA, such employees may be terminated with impunity. The cost of this eventuality is high in economic, as well as human, terms.

Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, Alcoholism, Disability, Protected Class, Disabled Persons

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Judith J., Rescue the Americans with Disabilities Act from Restrictive Interpretations: Alcoholism as an Illustration (2007). North Illinois University Law Review, Vol. 27, No. 2, p. 169, 2007; Mississippi College School of Law Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Judith J. Johnson (Contact Author)

Mississippi College - School of Law ( email )

151 East Griffith Street
Jackson, MS 39201
United States

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