In 1990, Congress passed - and President George H.W. Bush signed - the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to create a level playing field where everyone who is qualified for a given job has an equal opportunity to work, regardless of whether he or she has a disability.
Unfortunately, a series of Supreme Court decisions have narrowed who is covered by the law, so that many people with serious medical conditions - including individuals with diabetes, epilepsy, HIV, cancer, hearing loss and mental illness - often find they are no longer protected from discrimination. This is because the Supreme Court created an absurd Catch-22 in which an employer can deny someone a job because of a medical condition, but the individual's discrimination claim is thrown out of court because he or she is not "disabled enough" to be protected by the law. The individual is never given the chance to prove he or she can do the job.
For instance, a pharmacist with diabetes was fired for taking the lunch break that he needed to eat and regulate his blood sugar level. However, because he strove to manage his diabetes through medication and a dietary regimen, the court ruled he was not protected from discrimination under the ADA.
Fortunately, legislation has been introduced in Congress - the ADA Restoration Act - that would correct this injustice. This bipartisan bill would restore the true intent of the ADA and ensure that those originally intended to be protected are indeed protected. The ADA Restoration Act restores the right to be judged based solely on one's qualifications for the job and harmonizes the ADA with other civil rights laws.
As a volunteer with the American Diabetes Association and a practicing physician, I'm proud to say that Rep. Gary Ackerman is a co-sponsor of this important legislation. His support will help Congress fulfill the promise of the landmark 1990 legislation and ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to work and be judged based on performance.
Daniel Lorber, MD, FACP, CDE
Board of Directors
American Diabetes Association