NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Back Pain Cases Proliferate Under ADA

July 6, 2000

As soon as the Americans with Disabilities Act began to be enforced in 1992, people began filing complaints alleging they were being discriminated against by their employer because they suffered back pain. Legal experts say the intent of the law was to protect truly disabled people who are blind, deaf or in wheelchairs.

Back trouble have now become the largest single impairment alleged by people who file on-the-job discrimination cases.

  • More than 20,000 complaints citing back problems have been filed in the last decade -- outnumbering all complaints filed citing blindness, hearing impairment, paralysis and heart trouble.
  • Apparently there was an epidemic of back problems in 1993, because in that year a record 3,600 new back cases were filed.
  • Recently, the claims have drifted to about 2,300 a year -- due in part, observers say, to the fact judges have often taken a dim view of such claims and denied them.
  • In fact, according to American Bar Association figures, employers win 92 percent of all ADA cases reaching the courts.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that about 15 percent of cases involving back trouble are settled. Altogether, 125,946 cases claiming disability discrimination were filed with the commission between 1992 and 1999.

Source: Frank Santiago, "ADA Complaints Full of Pain in the Backs," USA Today, July 6, 2000.


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