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ADA Only Allows Interference Claims Against Employers

    Client Alerts
  • August 19, 2022

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows qualified disabled persons to sue based on interference with their civil rights under that statute. Earlier this month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an attempt by a plaintiff to assert an ADA interference claim against a non-employer.

In Post v. Trinity Health-Michigan, the plaintiff was a nurse anesthesiologist who worked at a hospital but was employed by a separate medical practice. She suffered a severe concussion and alleged that the hospital was interfering with her rights under the ADA by refusing to renew her credentials or allow her to practice using the hospital’s facilities. The district court dismissed the claims against the hospital, concluding the ADA’s interference provisions only apply to third parties when the plaintiff proves an intent to interfere.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, but on other grounds. Analogizing to Title VII, the court read the ADA to only allow interference claims against employers. In this case, the plaintiff did not allege joint employment by the hospital; therefore, this third party could not be subjected to an ADA Title I claim.

The employment structure described in this case is common among healthcare employers. Plaintiffs’ lawyers may try to avoid this outcome in future cases by alleging that the hospital is a joint or statutory employer under the ADA. Hospitals and similar entities may be able to avoid liability for ADA claims by structuring their relationships with outside medical practices using their facilities to avoid control over those employees or other elements of joint employment.