American with Disabilities Act, Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc., Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky v. Williams


This Note explores the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and how two Supreme Court decisions, Sutton v. United Airlines, Inc. and Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky v. Williams, could ultimately restrict the Act's reach. The ADA protects disabled individuals from discrimination in employment, in access to services by both private and public entities, and in access to telecommunications. The Act defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.” According to the Note, under traditional agency regulations and case law from the lower courts “work” or “working” is considered a “major life activity” that if substantially interfered by a physical or mental impairment would constitute a disability under the ADA. Sutton and Toyota, however, signal the Supreme Court’s intention to narrow the definition of a disabled person for purposes of the ADA by excluding all persons whose infirmities interfere with their ability to work. The Note addresses this issue specifically by first exploring the history of the ADA and relevant case law. From there, the Note identifies the arguments for and against a reading of disability under the ADA which would exclude “work” or “working” as a “major life activity." Finally, the Note argues that such a narrow reading of the statute is impermissible. The statute, according to the Note, must be construed to include work as a major life activity, because any other construction would contradict both the plain language of the statute and the clear intent of Congress.



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