Threshold Barriers to Title 1 and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Discrimination against Mental Illness in Long-Term Disability Benefits
Any discussion of the ADA presents an organizational challenge not only because of the complex structure of the Act itself, but also because the ADA implicates other complex federal remedial schemes such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The social policy implications of the issues under discussion in this article are complex and at times even contradictory, as is perhaps unavoidable. Part II outlines a typical case in which the employer provided inferior long-term disability benefits to those with mental disabilities. The purpose of Part II is to provide the reader with a map of the procedural and threshold issues facing the typical claimant in such a situation. Part III provides brief summaries of other remedial statutes that are related to, or that have an impact on, interpretation of the ADA. Part III includes descriptions of two statutes passed in 1997 and discusses whether either offers any assistance to the plaintiff in the typical case under discussion in this article. Part III is not intended to provide exhaustive analysis of the ways in which courts have construed the various statutes. It is only intended to provide a glimpse of the complexity of the issues raised here. Part IV provides information about background social, ethical and legal issues that are implicated in the typical case. For example, the importance of the fact that most people who have health or long-term disability insurance receive it as a benefit of employment must not be underestimated. Access to mental health care is being driven by workplace values and biases. Part V addresses the Title I issues raised in the typical case. The various opinions written in Parker will be explained, as will supporting and conflicting decisions from other federal courts. Part V ends with an analysis of Title I issues and argues that totally disabled employees should have standing to sue their employers for discrimination in long-term disability insurance benefit matters. Part VI traces Parker's ERISA claim through the courts. This brief section demonstrates why ERISA has not been successful in providing employees with meaningful review of discriminatory treatment in the context of insurance benefits. Part VII addresses the Title III issues raised in the typical case. The language of the statute will be examined and prior cases, some interpreting Title III broadly and some interpreting it narrowly, will be discussed. A detailed discussion of the several Parker opinions will be followed by an analysis of Title III issues which urges a broad reading of Title III.
Nancy Lee Firak, Threshold Barriers to Title 1 and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Discrimination against Mental Illness in Long-Term Disability Benefits, 12 J.L. & Health 205 (1997-1998)