Since the Americans With Disabilities Act took effect 12 years ago, attempts to define the scope of the law and identify the individuals and groups protected by it have resulted in numerous court cases, including several that have reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 26, 1990: The ADA is signed into law.
January 26, 1992: The ADA takes effect.
November 1994: In Gates v. Rowland the ninth circuit court of appeals rules that a person with HIV is considered disabled under the ADA. The court also says that denying food service jobs to HIV-positive prisoners does not violate federal disability laws.
April 1995: In Doe v. the University of Maryland Medical Systems the fourth circuit court of appeals affirms a lower court ruling supporting a hospital that said an HIV-positive neurosurgeon posed a significant risk of HIV infection to patients.
July 1996: In McNemar v. The Disney Store the third circuit court of appeals supports a lower court decision that an employee fired for cause, in this case theft, was not protected by the ADA when he revealed at the time of his firing that he was HIV-positive.
August 1997: The fourth circuit court rules 7'5 in Runnebaum v. NationsBank of Maryland that asymptomatic HIV infection does not qualify as a disability under the ADA.
October 1997: In Roberts v. Unidynamics the eighth circuit court of appeals reverses a jury verdict that there was insufficient evidence that a worker with Graves' disease was fired because his employers and coworkers believed he had advanced HIV disease or AIDS.
June 1998: The Supreme Court issues a 5'4 decision in its first HIV-related ADA case, Bragdon v. Abbott, which focused on a dentist who refused to treat an HIV-positive patient. The court ruled that asymptomatic HIV infection does qualify as a disability under the ADA because it affects a major life activity, in this particular case the ability of the plaintiff to reproduce. Legal experts say it was already assumed that people with AIDS are considered disabled under the law.
June 1998: The Supreme Court, in Pennsylvania Department of Corrections v. Yeskey, rules unanimously that the ADA covers prisoners.
July 1998: The 11th circuit court of appeals in Doe v. DeKalb City School District reverses a permanent injunction by a lower court judge that prevented the city from transferring an HIV-positive teacher from a class with children who had severe behavioral disorders on the ground that their violent behavior could result in HIV exposure through bleeding.
February 1999: In Montalvo v. Radcliffe the fourth circuit court upholds a lower court decision saying a Japanese-style martial arts academy could deny admission to an HIV-positive 12-year-old boy because he was a risk to others.
April 1999: In Onishea v. Hopper the 11th circuit court supports a lower court ruling against HIV-positive inmates in Alabama who sued over isolation and lack of access to prison recreational, religious, and education programs.
June 1999: In Murphy v. United Parcel Service the high court rules 7'2 that high blood pressure, when controlled through medication, does not qualify as a disability. Although the court previously ruled that asymptomatic HIV infection is considered a disability, some AIDS activists worry that this ruling might someday be applied to HIV-positive people on highly active antiretroviral therapy.
August 1999: The 11th circuit court in Watson v. the City of Miami Beach supports a lower court decision that an HIV-positive police officer was not discriminated against when required to take a fitness-for-duty exam and undergo a department-wide tuberculosis screening that required him to reveal his HIV status.
March 2000: The sixth circuit court of appeals in Holiday v. the City of Chattanooga reverses a lower court decision that said an HIV-positive police applicant was not discriminated against when rejected due to his HIV status.
October 2000: In Wright v. Giuliani the second circuit court of appeals denies a request for a preliminary injunction for relief in a case in which homeless AIDS patients in New York City sued due to inadequate emergency housing as guaranteed by the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
March 2001: The fifth circuit court of appeals in Flowers v. Southern Regional Physician Services vacates a $100,000 award given by a lower court to an HIV-positive employee who sued because of on-the-job harassment, even while upholding the lower court's verdict finding the employer liable. The case is sent back to the lower court to negotiate nominal damages.
May 2001: The first circuit court of appeals in Lesley v. Chie supports a lower court decision allowing a doctor to send a pregnant HIV-positive woman to a different hospital because of the facility's ability to offer better care.
June 2001: In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Yellow Freight System the seventh circuit court of appeals rules 7'4 that an HIV-positive worker fired for excessive absenteeism was not discriminated against because his request for unlimited sick days was not a reasonable accommodation.
December 2001: In Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Associates the 11th circuit court affirms a lower court decision that an HIV-positive dental hygienist posed a threat to patients and was not discriminated against when offered a desk job at half the pay.
January 2002: The Supreme Court rules unanimously in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams that a condition that limits tasks on a specific job, in this case carpal tunnel syndrome, does not meet the ADA's standards of restricting a major life activity. Some AIDS activists are concerned that the ruling could apply to HIV-positive people in the workforce suffering from specific physical ailments, such as peripheral neuropathy and fatigue, who request job changes or workplace accommodations because of their symptoms.
April 2002: In U.S. Airways v. Barnett the Supreme Court rules 5'4 that breaching seniority rules to accommodate a disabled employee is not a reasonable accommodation unless the employee can show why such an accommodation would be reasonable in his or her particular situation.
June 2002: In Chevron USA v. Echazabal the Supreme Court rules unanimously that a worker or applicant with a serious chronic illness, in this case hepatitis C, can be denied a job if that position would pose a direct threat to that worker's health or safety. AIDS activists worry that HIV-positive people may be denied jobs under this ruling because of claims that jobs that are too demanding, stressful, or time-consuming could worsen HIV disease progression.
November 2002: In Blanks v. Southwestern Bell Communications the fifth circuit court of appeals supports a lower court ruling that an HIV-positive employee was not disabled under the ADA because the only major life activity he claimed was impaired was that of reproduction and he had decided not to have any more children.
February 2003: In Doe v. U.S. Postal Service the D.C. circuit court of appeals reverses a lower court decision that said the postal service was not liable for a supervisor who revealed an employee's HIV-positive status to his coworkers.
June 2003: The second circuit court of appeals in Henritta D. v. Bloomberg affirms a lower court ruling that New York City residents with HIV and AIDS were not provided meaningful access to public assistance programs, benefits, and services.