Sex Ruling Could Trigger Flood of Disability Claims

Thanks to Kathy Adams and the D.C. Circuit, the ability of an individual to engage in sexual relations has suddenly become a sensitive issue for employers seeking to avoid disability discrimination suits without violating the privacy of employees' personal lives.

In July, the court ruled in Adams v. Rice that "sexual relations" qualifies as a major life activity for determining if an individual is disabled under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which governs disabled federal employees. As a result, more pillow talk figures to spill over from the bedroom to the courtroom.

The court said: "The 'record of' definition was tailor-made for plaintiffs who, like Adams, claim they once suffered from a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity, recovered from the impairment, but nonetheless faced employment discrimination because of it."

The decision echoed the 9th Circuit's 1999 action in McAlindin v. County of San Diego (1999), which held that "interacting with others" is a major life activity. The D.C. Circuit relied heavily on the Supreme Court's holding in 1998 in Bragdon v. Abbott that human reproduction qualifies as a major life activity.

Dave Wieczorek

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