Are people living with Diseases like Cancer or AIDS (HIV) protected by the ADA?
Yes. People with Cancer, AIDS or certain other life-altering diseases can have long-term disabilities that make it hard to work or get around.
What is the ADA’s Definition of Disability?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, an individual has a “disability” if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
The Essence of Discrimination
Tom Hanks, in his first Academy Award-winning performance, plays Andrew Beckett, a talented lawyer at a stodgy Philadelphia law firm. The homosexual Andrew has contracted AIDS but fears to inform his firm about the disease. Andrew hires Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), a black attorney, who begins to realize the discrimination practiced against Andrew is no different from the discrimination Miller himself has to battle against being black.
“The Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act: Prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified handicapped persons who are able to perform the duties required by their employment. Although the ruling did not address the specific issue of HIV and AIDS discrimination Subsequent decisions have held that AIDS is protected as a handicap under law, not only because of the physical limitations it imposes but because the prejudice surrounding AIDS exacts a social death which precedes the actual physical one.”
“This is the essence of discrimination: Forming opinions about others not based on their individual merits, but rather their membership in a group with assumed characteristics.”
School Board of Nassau County v. Arline: The Supreme Court hands down its ruling in School Board of Nassau County, Florida v. Arline. The decision stipulated that people with contagious disease must be regarded as handicapped and are protected by anti-discrimination laws. Thus, protection extended to those with contagious disease, AIDS. Weicker and others filed an amicus brief, supporting the points upheld by the Court’s decision. The decision refuted the Justice Department’s argument that employers can fire AIDS victims if they feel they are a health risk (School Board).