More MS news articles for February 2001

National Council on Disability Deeply Troubled by U.S. Supreme Court Decision Limiting Scope of Americans with Disabilities Act

U.S. Newswire
21 Feb 18:55
To: National Desk
Contact: Jeffrey T. Rosen or Mark S. Quigley of the National Council on Disability (NCD), 202-272-2004

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The National Council on Disability (NCD) is deeply troubled by today's U.S. Supreme Court decision in University of Alabama v. Garrett (No. 99-1240), according to NCD chairperson Marca Bristo.

In a 5 to 4 decision the Supreme Court ruled today that state workers cannot file employment discrimination suits against state governments under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The majority opinion written by Chief Justice Rehnquist said that the substantial evidence of state discrimination against people with disabilities assembled by Congress when it passed the ADA was insufficient to establish its authority to allow workers to sue their state employers for damages.

State employees who think they have been discriminated against because of disabilities can still seek injunctive relief. The decision also does not affect their ability to seek relief under various state laws, through administrative procedures or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"This pivotal case for people with disabilities was decided by the breadth of a single vote. The National Council on Disability is deeply troubled by the U.S. Supreme Court's rejection of substantial and powerful evidence of discriminatory treatment by state governments that was carefully compiled and documented by the disability community and Congress" said Bristo. "While we recognize today's decision is limited in scope to impact monetary damages -- state governments must still comply with the accommodation requirements in ADA for employees with disabilities -- we are deeply concerned that this ruling could prove to be the slippery slope leading the 54 million Americans with disabilities back behind the closed doors that ADA promised to open. Although ADA was never meant to be a panacea for the 70 percent unemployment rate among people with disabilities, it was intended to be a critical means of enhancing the ability of people with disabilities in gaining employment with their largest employer, state governments. The Supreme Court has put another obstacle in the path of people with disabilities.

Ten years ago, Congress passed and President George H. W. Bush signed one of the most significant civil rights laws since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In so doing, the nation opened its door to a new age for people with disabilities. A promise was made and that "shameful wall of exclusion," in former President Bush's words, has begun to come tumbling down. The National Council on Disability stands ready to work with the American people, Congress and President George W. Bush to, in his words, promote the "full enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act," and "ensure that all Americans with disabilities...have every chance to pursue the American dream."

Note: The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency making recommendations to the President and Congress on disability issues. In 1986, NCD first proposed and then drafted the Americans with Disabilities Act.

NCD is currently coordinating a multi-year study on the implementation and enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws.

Copyright 2001, U.S. Newswire