Predecessor Legislation
The employment provisions of the ADA mirror the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. [29 U.S.C. § 706 (1988 ed.).] The ADA covers more employers, however, because section 504 was limited to employers who did business with the government. Although these included most large employers— universities, medical institutions, and governmental entities themselves—many small businesses were exempt. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act remains good law. In disability litigation the plaintiff usually pleads the Rehabilitation Act along with an ADA claim, if the defendant is covered by the Rehabilitation Act. [Bartlett v. New York State Bd. of Law Examrs., 156 F.3d 321 (2d Cir. 1998).]
Section 504 was a remedial statute that provided standards to judge whether a given individual was the victim of discrimination. It allowed employers to use medical examinations and inquiries to determine the status of a potential or current employee’s medical condition, including disabilities. The ADA presumes that employers will discriminate against disabled individuals. It seeks to prevent discrimination by limiting the employer’s access to information, as well as providing legal remedies for victims of discrimination. It is this shift from nondiscrimination to noninquiry into disability that changes traditional occupational medicine practice.