Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett | Wikipedia audio article
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Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett | Wikipedia audio article

Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama
v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356 (2001), was a United States Supreme Court case about Congress’s
enforcement powers under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme
Court decided that Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act was unconstitutional,
insofar as it allowed states to be sued by private citizens for money damages.==Background==
The plaintiffs were Milton Ash and Patricia Garrett, both employees of the University
of Alabama school system. They were disabled under the definition of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA). Ash was a security guard who had a lifelong history of severe
asthma, and Garrett was a nurse who had been diagnosed with breast cancer requiring time-consuming
radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Both alleged that they had been discriminated against
at their jobs. The University had refused to assign Ash to duties that would alleviate
his asthma and insisted on transferring Garrett because of her absences. Ash and Garrett filed
a suit in federal court against the University of Alabama for damages, arguing that the University
had violated Title I of the ADA, which prohibiting discrimination in employment on the basis
of disability. The University of Alabama responded with a
motion to dismiss on the grounds that the Eleventh Amendment prohibited the suit. The
United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama dismissed both cases on
that ground, but the Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that Congress had expressly abrogated
the sovereign immunity of the states.==Issue==
Can Congress abrogate states’ immunity under its Fourteenth Amendment power to enforce
the Equal Protection Clause?==Decision==
The majority opinion stated that Congress, in enacting the ADA, had satisfied the requirement
that it make clear its intention to abrogate state sovereign immunity and allow states
to be sued for damages under the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the majority opinion also
stated that part of the ADA to lack the “congruence and proportionality” required when Congress
exercises its enforcement power under the Fourteenth Amendment, citing City of Boerne
v. Flores (1997). Under the Equal Protection Clause, discrimination
against people with disabilities is analyzed by “rational basis” scrutiny: if the discrimination
has a rational basis, it is constitutional. In this case, the Court held that Congress,
like the judiciary, was required to use rational basis review of state action, with its presumptions
favoring constitutionality. The Supreme Court decided that the legislative record of the
ADA “fails to show that Congress did in fact identify a pattern of irrational state discrimination
in employment against the disabled.” The Supreme Court stated that the “reasonable
accommodation” requirement of the ADA law failed the congruence and proportionality
test despite the hardship exception to the accommodation requirement:
“The ADA does except employers from the ‘reasonable accommodatio[n]’ requirement where the employer
‘can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation
of the business of such covered entity.’ § 12112(b)(5)(A). However, even with this exception, the accommodation
duty far exceeds what is constitutionally required in that it makes unlawful a range
of alternate responses that would be reasonable but would fall short of imposing an ‘undue
burden’ upon the employer. The Act also makes it the employer’s duty to prove that it would
suffer such a burden, instead of requiring (as the Constitution does) that the complaining
party negate reasonable bases for the employer’s decision. See ibid.”
The Supreme Court called disability discrimination rational in that hiring non-disabled employees
would conserve scarce financial resources by avoiding the need for costly reasonable
accommodations: “whereas it would be entirely rational (and therefore constitutional) for
a state employer to conserve scarce financial resources by hiring employees who are able
to use existing facilities, the ADA requires employers to ‘mak[e] existing facilities used
by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.'”
Thus, states have rational reasons for violating the part of the ADA law banning policies that
have a disparate impact on the disabled. Even in cases of racial discrimination in which
the courts apply a different standard of scrutiny to government action from rational basis review,
evidence of disparate impact is insufficient: “The ADA also forbids ‘utilizing standards,
criteria, or methods of administration’ that disparately impact the disabled, without regard
to whether such conduct has a rational basis. § 12112(b)(3)(A). Although disparate impact
may be relevant evidence of racial discrimination, see Washington v. Davis, 426 U. S. 229, 239
(1976), such evidence alone is insufficient even where the Fourteenth Amendment subjects
state action to strict scrutiny.” The Supreme Court had held in Village of Arlington
Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Corp. (1977) that disparate impact was not proof of discrimination
based on “race, color or national origin,” which would trigger strict scrutiny.
The Supreme Court considered the burden of proof to be on those who allege a state action
toward the disabled to be irrational: “Moreover, the State need not articulate its reasoning
at the moment a particular decision is made. Rather, the burden is upon the challenging
party to negative “‘any reasonably conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational
basis for the classification.'” Heller, supra, at 320 (quoting FCC v. Beach Communications,
Inc., 508 U.S. 307, 313 (1993)).” The Supreme Court mentioned the government’s
argument that “the inquiry as to unconstitutional discrimination should extend not only to States
themselves, but to units of local governments, such as cities and counties.” It admitted
that local governments “are ‘state actors’ for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment”
but added, “These entities are subject to private claims for damages under the ADA without
Congress’ ever having to rely on § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to render them so. It
would make no sense to consider constitutional violations on their part, as well as by the
States themselves, when only the States are the beneficiaries of the Eleventh Amendment.”
Also, “States are not required by the Fourteenth Amendment to make special accommodations for
the disabled, so long as their actions towards such individuals are rational. They could
quite hardheadedly – and perhaps hardheartedly – hold to job-qualification requirements
which do not make allowance for the disabled. If special accommodations for the disabled
are to be required, they have to come from positive law and not through the Equal Protection
Clause.” The ADA, by allowing states to be sued for
damages by private plaintiffs for failing to provide reasonable accommodations provided
significantly more Fourteenth Amendment protection for people with disabilities than was allowed
by Boerne. That level of protection, the Supreme Court held, was not “congruent and proportional”
to the wrong of discrimination against people with disabilities.
The Supreme Court did not address the ability of the federal government to sue the states
directly or the ability of Congress to subject local governments to private lawsuits, enforcing
federal anti-discrimination laws enacted pursuant to Article I, for example.
Thus, the ADA did not constitutionally abrogate the states’ sovereign immunity.
The decision’s scope, however, should not be overstated. While it prevents states from
being subject to money damages for violations of Title I of the ADA, states are still subject
to prospective injunctive relief, under Ex parte Young (1908).===Dissent===
The Court split 5-4, with Justice Stephen Breyer filing a dissenting opinion in which
he was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The
dissent stated the following about rational basis review: Congress found that “[t]wo-thirds of all disabled
Americans between the age of 16 and 64 [were] not working at all,” even though a large majority
wanted to, and were able to, work productively. And Congress found that this discrimination
flowed in significant part from “stereotypic assumptions” as well as purposeful unequal
treatment…. The problem with the Court’s approach is that
neither the “burden of proof” that favors States nor any other rule of restraint applicable
to judges applies to Congress when it exercises its § 5 power. “Limitations stemming from
the nature of the judicial process… have no application to Congress.” Rational–basis
review—with its presumptions favoring constitutionality—is “a paradigm of judicial restraint.” And the
Congress of the United States is not a lower court. (Citations omitted) On “congruence and proportionality,” Justice
Breyer said that City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc (1997) and Katzenbach v.
Morgan (1966) were precedents that require deference by the Court, not Congress: I recognize nonetheless that this statute
imposes a burden upon States in that it removes their Eleventh Amendment protection from suit,
thereby subjecting them to potential monetary liability. Rules for interpreting § 5 that
would provide States with special protection, however, run counter to the very object of
the Fourteenth Amendment. By its terms, that Amendment prohibits States from denying their
citizens equal protection of the laws. Hence “principles of federalism that might otherwise
be an obstacle to congressional authority are necessarily overridden by the power to
enforce the Civil War Amendments ‘by appropriate legislation.’ Those Amendments were specifically
designed as an expansion of federal power and an intrusion on state sovereignty.” (Citations
omitted)==See also==
ADA Litigation in the United States List of United States Supreme Court cases,
volume 531 Lucy v. Adams (1955

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