employment law attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas
Cox, Sterling & McClure      501-954-8073
by M. McClure on May 25, 2009 at 11:29 AM
Filed in ADA
The US Supreme Court recently delivered a Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”) decision that won’t have relevance for most employers, but it may give guidance as to how the Court might rule on the issue of whether the ADAAA definition of disability should be applied retroactively.   

In AT&T v. Hulteen, the Court considered whether AT&T’s pre-PDA policy of denying women service credit for time spent away from work for the birth of a child violated the PDA. The Court looked, in part, to Landgraf v. USI Film Products to support its conclusion that Congress did not intend the PDA to apply retroactively and therefore, the denial of service credit for time away from work due to pregnancy was lawful.

Similarly, Eighth Circuit district courts have looked to Landgraf to deny the retroactive application of the ADAAA when considering the standard of disability.  Nyrop v. Independent School District No. 11 and Kirkeberg v. Canadian Pacific Railway.  Based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hulteen, employers should feel confident that the Supreme Court would use the pre-ADAAA standard for disability for employment actions that occurred before January 1, 2009.   

The Bottom Line:  Review your disability accommodation process to make sure that your company is considering the new definition of disability under the ADAAA, which will cover many more employees than the ADA.  For employment actions after January 1, 2009, courts will be focusing primarily on whether the accommodation process was effective, rather than on whether the employee was disabled.

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7/14/2009 6:34:10 PM

I recently wrote a blog entry on ADAAA retroactivity (linked through my name). Several district courts have addressed this issue as well as a few Circuit courts and even the DOL states that it does not believe the ADAAA is retroactive. Seems like a consensus so far.

I hadn't thought of Hulteen as a signal for ADAAA retroactivity before... thanks for posting this!

Melanie McClure
7/15/2009 12:59:33 PM

Thanks, Phillip - I love the handy string cite in your post. I'm sure I'll be using it in a brief very soon.

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