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American Diabetes Association Urges Congress to Pass ADA Restoration Act, Help End Employment Discrimination Against Americans with Diabetes
Date:10/4/2007

Stephen Orr, fired for managing diabetes at work but whose claim was thrown out by the courts, testified Thursday before House Judiciary Subcommittee about his experience

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Oct. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Diabetes Association today reiterated its strong support for the ADA Restoration Act, legislation that would restore the intent of the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. On Thursday, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution heard testimony about pending legislation that would ensure that everyone who is qualified for a job has an equal opportunity to work, regardless of disability. Since the original legislation was enacted, a series of Supreme Court rulings have limited the criteria for who is covered by the law, resulting in many individuals with chronic diseases - including diabetes - no longer protected because they don't meet the stringent definition of disability. Their cases are dismissed by courts that never reach the issue of whether they were treated unfairly.

At Thursday's hearing, members of Congress heard testimony from Stephen Orr, an ADA volunteer from South Dakota who was fired from his job as a Wal-Mart pharmacist for taking lunch breaks that were necessary for him to avoid dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels). Orr was explicitly fired because of his diabetes. He responded by filing a claim against Wal-Mart under the Americans with Disabilities Act but lost when the courts sided with the retail chain in saying that he was not "disabled" since his diabetes could be successfully managed with insulin and diet. Because the Supreme Court directs courts to consider "mitigating measures" - including medications, prosthetics, diet and exercise, or any other treatment - in deciding whether an individual has a disability, the courts ruled that Orr did so well managing his condition that he was not protected by the law. Further, the courts ignored the fact that Wal-Mart actually prevented Orr from using these mitigating measure to effectively managing his disease and, because of that, he had become seriously ill on the job. Orr never had the opportunity to try to establish that, with a small, reasonable accommodation, he would have been able to both fully perform is job and protect his health and safety.

"I wish my case was unique but it is not," Orr said. "Too many people have had their ADA claims dismissed because they were found by the courts not to be sufficiently disabled under the courts' misguided interpretation of the definition of disability under the ADA. Congress must restore the ADA to what it was intended to be - a comprehensive mandate to protect all Americans from discrimination based on disability."

The Association has come out in strong support of the ADA Restoration Act since its July introduction by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The legislation, which has broad bipartisan support, would amend the definition of "disability" so that individuals who Congress originally intended to protect from discrimination - like Stephen Orr - are covered. It would also prevent the courts from considering "mitigating measures" when deciding whether an individual qualifies for protection under the law, and it would realign the focus in employment cases with whether an individual can do the job in question safely and effectively regardless of disability.

"The Supreme Court has created an absurd Catch-22 for individuals with diabetes and other chronic illnesses," said John Griffin, Chair of the Association's Legal Advocacy Subcommittee. "We have a cruel situation where the better people manage their disease, the less protection they have against discrimination because the courts are saying they aren't "disabled" enough. When the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, the purpose was to protect individuals' rights to be judged on their abilities so as to stop discrimination. Since then, the courts have severely watered down those rights, and it is inexcusable for Congress to ignore it any longer."

The American Diabetes Association is committed to ending discrimination against all people with diabetes. More information about the Association's support for the ADA Restoration Act can be found at http://diabetes.org/adarestoration.

The American Diabetes Association is the nation's leading voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information, and advocacy. The Association's advocacy efforts include helping to combat discrimination against people with diabetes; advocating for the increase of federal diabetes research and programs; and improved access to and quality of, healthcare for people with diabetes. The Association's mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Founded in 1940, the Association provides service to hundreds of communities across the country. For more information, please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.


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SOURCE American Diabetes Association
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