Today, my colleague Jonathan Orleans makes a return engagement to the blog, updating us on a decision released by the District Court of Connecticut yesterday that has relevance to various ADA cases in the state.  The Defendant was successfully represented by another colleague of mine here at the firm, Marcy Stovall.  

A decision issued yesterday by a federal district court in Connecticut provides some useful guidance on the distinction, for purposes of the Americans With Disabilities Act, between impairments that merely affect major life activities and those that substantially limit such activities. 

The decision by Judge Janet Arterton also clarifies that in determining whether the plaintiff is substantially limited in important life activities, the plaintiff is compared to “most people,” not to any subgroup of the general population.

In Rumbin v. Association of American Medical Colleges (download here), the plaintiff sought various accommodations, including extra time, to take the Medical College Admission Test (the “MCAT”), claiming to be disabled because he was severely limited in the major life activity of seeing. 

He submitted to the Association, which administers the MCAT, reports from his treating ophthalmologist and a behavioral optometrist who said that he had various vision-related impairments, including glaucoma, ocular misalignment, convergence insufficiency, binocular dysfunction, and oculomotor dysfunction. 

The Association nonetheless denied his request for accommodation after having his application reviewed by its own expert, the Executive Director of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry, who found the reports of plaintiff’s doctors unconvincing on a variety of grounds. 

(Interestingly, the Association presented evidence at trial that the MCAT is intentionally designed to be arduous and time-pressured, and that it is reluctant to grant requests for extra time because studies show that scores on tests where extra time is given are not equivalent to scores on tests using the standard timing.) 

The Defendant was also represented by Robert Burgoyne of Fulbright & Jaworski in Washington, DC.

Continue Reading Impairments That Merely Affect Major Life Activities Not Covered by ADA, Says Federal Court

Over the last few years, I’ve been running a popular post about Columbus Day and the origins of the work holiday in Connecticut.  Indeed, it has its foundation as a federal holiday and is listed in the United States Code (5 U.S.C. Sec. 6103).

Columbus Day is officially on October 12th (celebrating Columbus arrival on October 12, 1492), but it is celebrated on the 2nd Monday in October as a result of the federal law.   So, if you work for a federal or state employer in human resources, or otherwise, you are likely going to have next Monday off. 

But it is also one of those holidays that private employers increasingly have decided do not merit a vacation day.  A survey from a few years ago showed that just  seven percent of employers in California, for example, give the day off to their employees. 

A common question that arises, however, is why? Why do employees for private companies not have to close on a day that has been designated by the federal government as a national holiday?

The answer is actually quite simple: Because Congress didn’t cover private employers in the law.  And state law doesn’t mandate any requirements on private employers either.  And so, while employees may complaint (perhaps rightly) about the difficulty of some child-care arrangements for some closed schools or otherwise, employer continue to have discretion about the days that it designates as holidays. 

Some employers have created their own work-arounds, allowing employees to take 1-3 "floating holidays" for days like this (or other types of holidays, like Yom Kippur or Three Kings Day).  That’s a sensible practice. But regardless, these types of policies should be discussed with employees so everyone knows what day is a holiday and what day isn’t.

Continue Reading Columbus Day is Coming. And Most Employers are Open.

As with other U.S. Supreme Court cases this term, there’s been more virtual ink spilled this week over two oral arguments scheduled for the U.S. Supreme Court this week that will examine some of the parameters of  when it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining about discrimination.  For most employers, however, these cases