WASHINGTON (Nov. 13, 2001)—Major customers of the tire industry are fighting to overturn a federal appeals court decision that broadens the definition of “disability” for U.S. workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The American Trucking Associations, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a joint amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief supported Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc. in its effort to overturn a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The lower court ruled that Ella Williams, a Toyota Kentucky employee, had a “disability” under the ADA because her carpal tunnel syndrome kept her from performing certain jobs on the assembly line. It ordered the auto maker to make modifications to the assembly line to accommodate Ms. Williams. Toyota appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments Nov. 7.
In their joint amicus brief, the four associations called the Sixth Circuit's decision “sweeping and unwarranted.” The ADA, according to the brief, was intended by Congress only to “protect a limited class of individuals with severely restricted impairments.”
Williams, the brief stated, leads a normal life except for her inability to perform certain repetitive-motion tasks. If allowed to stand, the appeals court decision “would transform the ADA from a statute that makes limited affirmative demands of employers…into one that requires employers to consider accommodating any impairment that makes an employee or applicant less than ideally suited for a particular job.”
Organizations such as the Rubber Manufacturers Association, Tire Association of North America and International Tire and Rubber Association took no active role in the case, though their representatives said they are interested in its outcome.
Supporters of the appeals court decision argued that it reverses a trend toward recent rulings that made the ADA too restrictive to help most workers who need it. Attorneys for organizations that support Ella Williams did not return phone calls.