Monday, July 21, 2008

D.C. Circuit: Sexual Relations is a Major Life Activity, and Employer Need Not Know of Limitation to be Liable

On Friday, the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in Adams v. Rice. The plaintiff, a breast cancer survivor who was rejected for the Foreign Service, sued under the Rehabilitation Act. The district court granted summary judgment to the State Department, on the ground that the plaintiff had no record of a disability. The D.C. Circuit reversed, by a 2-1 vote. Judge Tatel's majority opinion held that sexual relations is a major life activity and that the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence that her breast cancer, in the past, substantially limited that major life activity. The State Department argued that, because it did not know that the plaintiff's breast cancer had substantially limited her ability to engage in sexual relations, it could not be held liable for discriminating against her. But the court rejected that argument. Relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Bragdon v. Abbott, Judge Tatel's majority opinion concluded that the defendant would be liable if it discriminated on the basis of a known impairment, even if it did not know what major life activities the impairment substantially limited.

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