Cynthia Valladares-Toledo, received disability payments for a
period of two years because she suffered from a disability
caused by a mental or emotional disorder, whereas the long-term
insurance plan would have provided disability benefits until
age 65 if she had suffered from a physical disability.
See 96 F.3d at 1041. Finding the EEOC's theory "at best,
strained," the Seventh Circuit held that a person with the
status of "benefit recipient" does not fit within the
definition of someone filling an employment position and
therefore could not raise a cognizable claim under Title I of
the ADA. See 96 F.3d at 1043-45.
In Ford v. Schering-Plough Corp., 145 F.3d 601 (3d Cir.
1998), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 119 S.Ct. 850, 142 L.Ed.2d
704 (1999), the Third Circuit examined the same issue and
reached the opposite conclusion. In Ford the Third Circuit
ruled that Title I's prohibition against discrimination with
respect to terms, conditions and privileges of employment,
including fringe benefits, permits former employees to sue
their former employers over their disability benefits. 145 F.3d
at 608. In reaching this conclusion, the Third Circuit found
the statutory language of the ADA ambiguous, in that a plain
reading of the language restricted eligibility to sue under
Title I to persons who currently work whereas the statute had
the stated intent of covering employment practices, including
benefits. See 145 F.3d at 606. To correct for this ambiguity,
the Third Circuit read out the "temporal qualifier" by defining
the term "qualified individual with a disability" to include
"former employees who were once employed with or without
reasonable accommodations yet who, at the time of suit, are
completely disabled." 145 F.3d at 606.
In Castellano v. New York, 142 F.3d 58 (2d Cir. 1998), cert.
denied, ___ U.S. ___, 119 S.Ct. 60, 142 L.Ed.2d 47 (1998), the
Second Circuit also faced the issue of whether former employees
could challenge post-employment fringe benefits but declined to
resolve the issue. Rather, the Second Circuit disposed of the
case on the merits after "assuming without deciding" that the
former employees fell within the classification of qualified
individuals (under Title II of the ADA).
Upon reading the statute and considering the legislative
purpose of the ADA, this court concludes that the holding of
CNA squares more closely with the purpose of the ADA than do
the holdings of Ford or Castellano. In this respect, Congress
enacted the ADA to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment in the
workplace for disabled individuals, or those with a perceived
disability, who could perform the essential functions of their
positions. See, e.g., Castellano, 142 F.3d at 68 ("Where the
alleged discrimination relates to the provision of
post-employment benefits, rather than to hiring, promotion, or
firing, Congress's expressed concern about qualifications is no
longer implicated.") For this reason, Congress limited ADA
coverage to those who fall within the term "qualified
individual with a disability," 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a), and
Congress defined that term as meaning an "individual with a
disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can
perform the essential functions of the employment position that
such individual holds or desires," 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8).
Additionally, this court notes that even the Third Circuit
reached the conclusion that a plain reading of the statutory
language restricted Title I eligibility to persons who
The record indicates that Fennell's mental disability
prevents her from working for Aramark. Because of this, Fennell
cannot, either with or without reasonable accommodation,
perform the essential functions of her employment position. The
court finds the statutory language on this point, in that a
person who cannot perform the essential functions of the job
does not fall within the coverage of Title I of the ADA.
Consequently, the court rules that Fennell is not a qualified
individual with a disability for purposes of
coverage under the ADA. Therefore, the court concludes that the
EEOC cannot bring a claim in this case under Title I to
challenge the different levels of long-term disability benefits
available to former employees. Accordingly, the court grants
the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismisses
C. Fennell's Title III Claim
Fennell brings her allegation under Title III of the ADA
alleging Aramark and Aetna discriminated against her, based on
her particular disability (mental illness), in that they
entered into an arrangement that denied her the opportunity to
participate in or benefit from goods, services, privileges or
advantages otherwise available to other individuals
(i.e., disability benefits until age 65). (See Fennell Am.
Compl. at ¶ 18.) In their motion to dismiss Aramark and Aetna
assert that Title III is limited to places of public
accommodation, meaning physical locations, and therefore does
not permit suits centered on employee benefits.
Title III prohibits discrimination by places of public
accommodation, as follows:
No individual shall be discriminated against on
the basis of disability in the full and equal
enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities,
privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any
place of public accommodation by any person who
owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place
of public accommodation.
42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). The question before this court, an issue
of first impression in this district, is whether Title III's
prohibition is limited to physical places or whether it extends
to any commercial good or service.
An initial reading of the statute reflects a limitation based
on locality by use of the term "place" of public accommodation.
Additionally, the legislative history makes clear that Title
III regulates owners and lessees of places and not equality in
terms or conditions of employment. See Leonard F. v. Israel
Discount Bank of New York, 967 F. Supp. 802, 804 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)
(citing S.Rep. No. 116, 101st Cong., 1st Sess. 58 (1989)).
Further, the statute defines "public accommodation" in terms
of physical locations or structures. For example, the statute
lists twelve categories of a public accommodations, as follows:
(A) inn, hotel, motel; (B) restaurant, bar; (C) motion picture
house, theater, concert hall; (D) auditorium, convention
center, lecture hall; (E) bakery, grocery store, clothing
store; (F) laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop; (G)
terminal, depot; (H) museum, library, gallery; (I) park, zoo,
amusement park; (J) nursery, elementary, secondary,
undergraduate, or postgraduate private school; (K) day care
center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter; and (L)
gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course.
42 U.S.C. § 12181(7). Thus, all of the public accommodations listed
constitute physical places, not goods or services in general.
"Moreover, the list of `public accommodations' in
42 U.S.C. § 12181(7) suggests Title III covers only discrimination against
guests, customers, and clients of places held open for service
to the general public." Menkowitz v. Pottstown Mem'l Med. Ctr.,
154 F.3d 113, 126 (3d Cir. 1998).
A plain reading of the statute indicates an intent by
Congress to prohibit discrimination, based on physical
disability, in places that accommodate. An employment
disability benefits plan does not constitute a place.
Additionally, at least one court has reached the same
conclusion. In Parker v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co.,
121 F.3d 1006, 1014 (6th Cir. 1997) (en banc), the Sixth Circuit ruled
that a former employee's challenge of mental versus physical
disparity in a long-term disability plan, brought against her
former employer and the administering insurance company, did
not fall within the purview of Title III of the ADA.
For the above-stated reasons, the court concludes that Title
III does not permit
Fennell's suit, which alleges disparity in employment benefit
plans for mental versus physical disabilities. Accordingly, the
court grants the defendants' motion for summary judgment on
Fennell's Title III claim.
Title I of the ADA limits coverage to qualified persons with
a disability, meaning those persons who can perform the
essential functions of the job either with or without
accommodation. Fennell has a mental disability that precludes
her from performing her job. Therefore, she does not fall
within the protection of the ADA. Accordingly, the court grants
the defendants' motion for summary judgment of the EEOC's Title
I claim. Title III of the ADA limits coverage to places of
public accommodation, meaning physical locations. An employee
disability benefits plan does not constitute a place of
accommodation. Therefore, Fennell's allegation does not fall
within the confines of the ADA. Accordingly, the court grants
the defendants' motion for summary judgment of Fennell's Title
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