Tag Archives: ada

Court rejects employer’s argument that wellness programs are insulated from ADA

A federal court has ruled in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a disability discrimination case over Orion Energy Systems wellness program.

The Wisconsin-based court rejected the employer’s argument that the insurance safe harbor provision in the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act immunizes wellness plans from ADA scrutiny.

In the Orion lawsuit, EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems Inc., the EEOC argued that Orion required Wendy Schobert to submit to medical testing as part of a wellness program or pay 100 percent of the premium for the employer-provided health insurance.

The EEOC contended that this violated the ADA’s prohibition against involuntary medical exams.

Orion contended that its wellness plan was covered by the ADA’s so-called “insurance safe harbor” and thereby was excused from ADA compliance except if it operated as a subterfuge.

Orion also argued that the plan was lawful under the ADA because it was voluntary.

The district court rejected Orion’s safe harbor argument and held that the plan was subject to ADA review.

The court concluded that the EEOC’s recently issued regulations on the ADA’s safe harbor provision were within the commission’s authority.

The court further held that the safe harbor provision did not apply even without regard to the new regulations.

However, the court found that the wellness plan was lawful under the ADA because it concluded that the employee’s decision whether to participate was voluntary under that statute.

The court also held that there were issues of fact regarding whether Schobert was fired because of her opposition to the wellness plan and indicated the case would be set for trial.

Since the defendant’s motion for summary judgment was denied, the next step in the process should be the scheduling of a trial on the retaliation claim.

“Although we disagree with the court’s holding that participation in the wellness plan here was voluntary, we are pleased with the court’s solid reasoning that the safe harbor concept does not apply here,” said John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “It establishes that there is no easy out for employers from ADA scrutiny — they must make sure that their plans comply with that law.”

Iowa law enforcement debates granting gun permits to blind people

Iowa law enforcement officials are debating the wisdom of granting gun permits to blind people.

The Des Moines Register reports Iowa law doesn’t allow sheriffs to deny a permit to carry a gun in public based on physical ability.

Some sheriffs have been granting gun permits to people with visual impairments while others have been denying them. Blind people and other Iowans can obtain the permits for carrying a weapon in public because of changes to state law that took effect in 2011.

Jane Hudson with Disability Rights Iowa said keeping legally blind people from obtaining weapon permits would violate the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

Some other states, including Nebraska, require anyone applying for a gun permit to provide proof of their visual ability by supplying a driver’s license or doctor’s statement.

Hudson said she thinks someone could successfully challenge Nebraska’s vision restriction because federal law requires states to analyze a situation individually before denying a service.

“The fact that you can’t drive a car doesn’t mean you can’t go to a shooting range and see a target,” Hudson said.

Polk County, Iowa, officials said they have issued weapons permits to people who can’t drive legally because of vision problems at least three times. Sheriffs in Jasper, Kossuth and Delaware counties say they’ve also granted permits to Iowans with severe visual impairments.

“It seems a little strange, but the way the law reads, we can’t deny them (a permit) just based on that one thing,” said Sgt. Jana Abens, a spokeswoman for the Polk County sheriff’s office, referring to a visual disability.

It’s not clear how many people with visual impairments have permits to carry weapons in Iowa because no one collects that information.

Delaware County Sheriff John LeClere questioned whether visually impaired people should be able to obtain these weapons permits.

“At what point do vision problems have a detrimental effect to fire a firearm? If you see nothing but a blurry mass in front of you, then I would say you probably shouldn’t be shooting something,” LeClere said.

Even Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, said guns may be a rare exception to his philosophy.

“Although people who are blind can participate fully in nearly all life’s experiences, there are some things, like the operation of a weapon, that may very well be an exception,” Clancy said.

But in Cedar County, Iowa, blind people would find a welcoming audience if they applied for a weapons permit. Sheriff Warren Wethington has a legally blind daughter, who is 19 and plans to apply for a permit when she’s eligible at 21.

“If sheriffs spent more time trying to keep guns out of criminals’ hands and not people with disabilities, their time would be more productive,” Wethington said.

Woman gets 25 years for gun in vagina, meth in butt

An Ada, Okla., woman was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading no contest to methamphetamine possession with intent to distribute, gun possession by a convicted felon and bringing contraband into jail, according to The Smoking Gun.

While being booked in March for drug possession, Christine Harris was discovered to have hidden a 5-shot revolver in her vagina and two plastic baggies containing crystal meth between her buttocks.

Police apprehended Harris along with another woman in the parking lot of the Dairy Lou Drive Inn, known as “Home of the Hercules.” The other woman had a hypodermic needle in her shoe.

While the women were being searched during booking, officers noticed “a wooden and metal item sticking out from (Harris’) vagina area.”

“It would seem to be a very dangerous place to carry a loaded firearm,” said the Pontotoc County District Attorney. “If it goes off it’s only going one place.”

Both women had long criminal records, according to reports.

Alabama policy of segregating inmates with HIV goes on trial

Alabama’s policy of segregating inmates living with HIV is on trial in a U.S. District Court courtroom in Montgomery.

The trial began Sept. 17, with opening arguments in the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The department segregates prisoners living with HIV from other inmates, requires them to wear a white armband to show their status and bars HIV-positive prisoners from rehabilitative, vocational and mental health programs.

The policy prompted the class action suit that’s gone to a trial expected to last up to a month.

The state of Alabama contends that HIV does not qualify as an impairment under federal law.

The ACLU maintains the state is violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The mere fact that a person has HIV does not make him a threat to anyone, and there is no legitimate reason whatsoever to categorically segregate prisoners with HIV,” said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU National Prison Project. “There’s a national consensus among state prison administrators, public health officials and correctional medical experts that segregation of prisoners with HIV is not only unnecessary but counter-productive.”

South Carolina also segregates prisoners with HIV into designated housing. Mississippi ended such segregation in 2010 following the release of an ACLU-Human Rights Watch report documenting the harassment and discrimination segregated prisoners face.

“Alabama’s treatment of these prisoners is an appalling relic of previous decades’ ignorance and irrational fear of HIV and AIDS,” said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project.