The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits public places of accommodation from erecting barriers to persons with disabilities. This portion of the ADA is known as Title III. This is the provision that requires, for example, entrance ramps at restaurants and stores. Does Title III also apply to websites? The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in
ACCD Instructor Settles ADA Lawsuit
Tom Brown, confined to a wheel chair, formerly taught sociology at Northeast Lakeview College. He sued ACCD and settled his case for $95,000. Mr. Brown alleged that the district required him to teach in a classroom that was not accessible to his wheel chair and the school would not provide him help to move a…
Iowa Jury Awards $240 Million to Men with Mental Disabilities
A jury awarded $240 million to 32 men with mental disabilities in Iowa. Their employer was Henry’s Turkey Service, which had been previously assessed $1.76 million for underpaying men with disabilities. See my prior blog post about that jury trial. The $240 million awarded in Iowa includes $2 million in punitive damages for each…
Federal Judge Finds 20 lb Restriction to be a Substantial Limitation
Judge Montalvo issued a decision for the Western District of Texas regarding the Americans with Disabilities act. In Molina v. DSI Renal Inc., 2012 WL 29348 (W.D.Tex. 1/4/12) the court deneid the employer’s motion for summary judgment. The case was filed under the Texas Commission on Human Rights act, but the court interpreted based on…
The ADA Does Not Protect Employees with Potential Disabilities
This issue arises every so often. An employee has a serious illness and is warned by her doctor that stress at work worsens the illness. Is that a disability? Not according to caselaw under the old (ie, pre-amendment) Americans with Disabilities Act. In one case, the client was warned that her hypertension would worsen if…
Fifth Circuit Overturns Judgment for Defendant
in a recent decision, the Fifth Circuit found in favor of the plaintiff, actually overruling a judgment for the employer. Even more surprising is that in its decision, the Fifth Circuit appears to be construing the available facts in favor of the non-movant, as they should be doing. See Carmona v. Southwest Airlines.
Hypertension is not a Disability under the Old ADA
The Eastern District of Pennsylvannia, US district court, finds under the old ADA (ie, prior to the Jan 1, 2009 amendments) high blood pressure is not a disability which requires accommodation. Nmako v. Acme Markets. The employee had requested accommodation for migraine headaches, emotional stress and high blood pressure. The physician had told…
Automatic Leave Policies Violate the ADA
In a recent settlement with the EEOC, Sears Roebuck agreed to pay $6.2 million to resolve claims made by persons with disabilities. Sears also agreed to enter into a consent decree, which means Sears agreed to perform many other non-monetary tasks in settlement of the claims. The EEOC represented persons with disabilities who had worked…
Discrimination Laws in Texas
“Title VII” “Texas Commission on Human Rights Act” “EEOC” “Civil Rights Division” “Americans with Disabilities Act” “Age Discrimination in Employment Act”…
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Employees Fare Worse in Federal Lawsuit Study
Recently, I wrote about a study showing that employers are losing more discrimination cases this past year. This was a study published by Manpower, a human resources firm. Yet, a separate study by two Cornell law school professors published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review shows just the opposite, that plaintiffs in employment cases are doing worse. These two professors are the same persons who prepared a study several years ago showing that employment plaintiffs generally do worse in federal court than other types of plaintiffs. Well, now, in this latest study, based on data from 1970 to 2006, we see that within the last five years, the number of employment cases has dropped dramatically in federal court. In 2001, employment cases accounted for 10% of all federal lawsuits. In 2006, that number dropped to 6%. I am sure that drop is due to the ever increasing use of summary judgment in employment cases.
For example, this study finds that while defendants (employers) and plaintiffs (employees) appeal about as often as each other, the defendant is ten times more likely to win on appeal. Too, the pretrial reversal rate is far higher for defendants (30%) than for plaintiffs (10%). "Reversal rate" refers to those times when the lower court finds in favor of one party or the other. If you are a defendant, you have a 30% chance of reversing the district court. As a plaintiff, you have only a 10% chance of obtaining a reversal. Pretrial disposition refers primarily to summary judgment and motions to dismiss. So, when motions for summary judgment or to dismiss are granted, the employer has a 30% chance at getting the decision reversed. While, the plaintiff has only a 10% chance at reversing the adverse decision.
Looking at the reversal rate after a trial has occurred, the disparity becomes more clear. Defendants have a 41% chance of obtaining reversal. While, a plaintiff (employee) only has a 9% chance of getting the trial result reversed. Thus, the authors point out, the federal system heavily favors the defendant (employer).
As the authors explain, this result is counter-intuitive. Discrimination cases by definition rely on evidence of intent and private conversations. One would expect reversal of a jury decision to be rare. Or, one would at least expect that reversal of a jury decision to be about the same for both parties. Since, trial outcomes in discrimination cases depend so much on credibility determinations by a jury. Such cases ought to be virtually immune from appellate review. The appellate judges were not present at trial to observe witness testimony. The authors believe the best explanation for this apparent discrepancy is that the federal judges have an "attitudinal" bias against such claims. That "attitudinal" bias would certainly comport with my experience with federal appellate judges. They are, on the whole, remarkably skeptical of discrimination claims.
But, so are federal district court trial judges. They are on the whole just as skeptical of discrimination claims. The authors note that federal trial level judges are skeptical toward discrimination claimants. Discrimination plaintiffs are among the least successful sorts of claimants in federal court.
The data from 1998 to 2006 shows the following success rates for plaintiffs:
ADA – 9% (Manpower study: employer wins 52%)
Title VII -11%
ADEA -12% (Manpower study: employer wins 33%)
The Manpower study I referenced on Jan. 6, 2010 does not describe the source of their data. This Cornell study published in the Harvard Law & Policy Review drew from federal numbers. Federal district clerks keep painstaking detail regarding each lawsuit filed. So, the Cornell study is based on solid data. The Manpower study relies on data collected by Jury Verdict Research. My experience with verdict research firms is that they rely on information regarding cases provided to it on an ad hoc basis on its own or from other sources. The information is still relevant when compared to prior years. But, JVR’s data is probably not as complete as federal systemic data. So, the Cornell study is scientific, while the JVR study probably is not. It is fair to say that federal courts remain a very inhospitable place for discrimination claimants. …
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