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Monday, September 22, 2008

Congress Pushes Back on Bad SCOTUS Decisions

Last week, amid all of the chaos surrounding the turmoil on Wall Street, Congress found time to pass an important piece of legislation that would correct several bad Supreme Court decisions and expand protections for workers with disabilities. The bill received strong bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress and President Bush has said that he will sign it.

Since the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, the Supreme Court has consistently released opinions limiting the breadth of its protections. While the original legislation never specifically outlined which kinds of disabilities necessitated protections, the Court regularly limited the statute to medical problems that could not be treated. According to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), “Supreme Court decisions have led to a supreme absurdity, a Catch-22 situation. The more successful a person is at coping with a disability, the more likely it is the court will find that they are no longer disabled and therefore no longer covered under the ADA.”

The new law would provide a remedy for these decisions, restoring the original intent of the ADA, which according to House Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was meant to be “inclusive.” Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said this bill “will make a real difference in the lives of real people.” Now if only we could get this kind of bipartisan support for the Fair Pay Restoration Act, legislation meant to remedy last year’s disastrous decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Rubber & Tire.

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