Rescue the Americans With Disabilities Act from Restrictive Interpretations: Alcoholism as an Illustration
Johnson, Judith J.
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The article posits that judicial interpretations have virtually eliminated many impairments, such as alcoholism, from protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, contrary to obvious Congressional intent. While this phenomenon is not limited to alcoholism, it is a useful illustration of the damage judicial activism has caused in this area. In enacting the ADA, Congress was particularly concerned about "stereotypic assumptions" that created myths and fears about disabled people. Alcoholics are often subjected to discrimination because of such assumptions and because they are not perceived as having a "real" illness. Moreover, Congress referred to alcoholism many times in the legislative history and included a specific reference to alcoholism in the statute. For these reasons, alcoholism illustrates the extreme difficulty of proving a disability under the current case law. Once employers discover that their employees with impairments, such as alcoholism, are no longer protected by the ADA, such employees may be terminated with impunity. The cost of this eventuality is high in economic, and especially, human, terms.