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Monday, May 29, 2006

Agita over the ADA

The blog ‘Disability Law’ has a VERY interesting post dubbed Gastrointestinal Disorders and the ADA. Every reader of this blog should read it.

It abstracts a recent article by Lawrence D. Rosenthal, titled Can't Stomach the Americans with Disabilities Act? How the Federal Courts Have Gutted Disability Discrimination Legislation in Cases Involving Individuals with Gastrointestinal Disorders and Other Hidden Illnesses.

It’s sad and true: People suffering from “hidden” GI-related illnesses such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease face an uphill battle when attempting to pursue disability-based discrimination claims under current ADA regulations.

So what makes a person sick enough to qualify? Though their ailments are not as apparent as deafness, blindness, or dismemberment, people with gastrointestinal disorders experience significant pain and distress, with symptoms including frequent fevers, bloody diarrhea, nausea, severe abdominal cramps, anemia, fatigue, loss of body fluids, and nutrient depletion.

As a result, people with GI disorders often require special treatments and accommodations to help make their days more comfortable and productive—or at the very least, less painful.

And the need for these special requirements can lead to job discrimination. Hence the need for protection under the ADA—which, apparently, the Courts are not supporting, based on the abstract of Mr. Rosenthal’s article.

I’m a nutritional biologist, not a lawyer, so I can’t speak to the legal ramifications of this debate. But I can say that GI disorders, when left untreated, can develop into serious medical conditions that not only affect a person’s daily routine, but significantly decrease their quality of life, and require special accommodations.

Losing your job, or being discriminated on the job, simply because you’re suffering with a GI condition, strikes me as un-American. A disability is a disability, and aren’t we all entitled to equal protection under the law—including disability law?

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