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Court Cases Clarify ADA’s Requirements

March 2, 1999
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Related Topics: Medical Benefits Law, Disabilities, Featured Article, Benefits
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Two recent cases offer guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In the first, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought suit under the ADA against Chase Manhattan Bank, whose long-term disability plan provided benefits for individuals with physical disabilities until age 65, but only provided benefits for mental disabilities for a maximum of two years.

The U.S. District Court for Southern New York held the policy did not violate the ADA, because "[while] the ADA proscribes discrimination ... between the disabled and the non-disabled, it does not mandate equal benefits for different disabilities." EEOC vs. Chase Manhattan Bank, S.D.N.Y., No. 97 Civ. 6620, 12/8/98.

In the second case, after Leanora Templeton suffered injuries in an automobile accident, she took disability leave from her position with Neodata Services. Before her return, Templeton refused to have her doctor complete a medical form in fear that the company would misuse the information. Neodata claimed the data was needed to determine accommodation for her and to comply with insurance requirements. Templeton was fired, and she sued her employer under the ADA, alleging failure to reasonably accommodate.

Federal district court dismissed Templeton’s claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit agreed, reasoning that Templeton’s failure to engage in an interactive process with her employer to determine a reasonable accommodation precluded a claim for failure to accommodate. Templeton vs. Neodata Services Inc., 10th Cir., No 98-1106, 12/10/98.

Impact:
ADA permits employers to distinguish between disabilities in benefit plans.

 

Source: D. Diane Hatch, Ph.D., a human resources consultant based in San Francisco, and James E. Hall, an attorney with the law firm of Barlow, Kobata & Denis, with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago.

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