In Sutton v. United Airlines, identical twin sisters with severe myopia, filed suit under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) alleging that United Airlines (United) discriminated against them on the basis of a disability, or because United regarded them as having a disability. This case invited the United States Supreme Court to decide for the first time whether mitigating measures such as glasses, medication or prosthetics should be considered when determining if an impairment is an “actual disability” under the ADA, and what constitutes a proper allegation for being “regarded as” disabled under the ADA. In a seven to two decision, the Court held that mitigating measures used by individuals with impairments should be considered when determining whether such individuals are disabled under the ADA, thereby heightening the standard. The Court also held that the sisters failed to properly allege that they were regarded by United as disabled within the meaning of the ADA. One of the dissenting opinions, however, argues that the legislative history of the ADA, as well as the regulations issued from the executive agencies charged with enforcing the ADA, expressly states that the determination of whether an individual's impairment amounts to a disability under the ADA should be made without reference to mitigating measures. Given the Court's surprisingly narrow reading of the statutory language of the ADA and the dissents' focus on the legislative history of the ADA, the question now becomes: should Congress amend the ADA? If not, what impact will the Sutton decision have on future ADA claims?
Sara G. Holmes,
The Supreme Court Reverses the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Directive that Disability Determinations Should Be Made without Regard to Mitigating Measures: Sutton v. United Airlines,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol52/iss2/7