D. Mass on the ADA and Mental/Physical Distinctions in Long-Term Disability Insurance
In Fletcher v. Tufts Univ. (D. Mass, Apr. 15, 2005), the court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss in an ADA challenge to a long-term disability (LTD) insurance plan that capped benefits for mental disabilities at two years. (As is typical in these policies, benefits for physical disabilities continue to age 65.) The court (per Judge Lindsay) made a number of significant rulings: (1) that former employees who are entitled to disability benefits are "qualified individuals" for purposes of Title I of the ADA, which prohibits disability-based employment discrimination; (2) that the disparate treatment of mental and physical disabilities under the LTD plan constitutes discrimination on the basis of disability that violates Title I unless it comes within the statute's insurance safe harbor; and (3) that the plaintiff may also challenge the disparity under Title III of the ADA, which prohibits disability-based discrimination by places of public accommodation. There is substantial authority that rejects each of these three points -- though Judge Lindsay's ruling is most closely in accord with prior case law in the First Circuit -- so it wouldn't be surprising if the defendants sought to take the issues up on appeal.