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High Court To Clarify ADA "Grey Area"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 1, 2002

WASHINGTON, DC--When Congress passed the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, it said that small businesses -- defined as having 15 or more employees -- were required to follow the employment provisions under Title I of the law after July 26, 1994. Those provisions state that such employers cannot discriminate against workers with disabilities in how they hire, fire, train, recruit or pay them.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a case that could clarify who can and cannot be counted when deciding whether a company has 15 or more employees. The ruling could affect employees with disabilities that work for small businesses across the country.

The case involves Deborah Anne Wells who worked for Clackamas Gastroenterology Associates, P.C., for 11 years and was fired in 1997 because of her disability, described as "a debilitating tissue disorder". Wells claimed that she was demoted, then forced to resign.

Wells sued the clinic under the ADA. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a split decision, ruled that the clinic owners -- which include four doctors -- must be counted as employees. This would mean that the company has more than 15 employees and would have to comply with the ADA.

The case is Clackamas Gastroenterology Associates, P.C., v. Deborah Wells. The case number is 01-1435.

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