Rene L. Duncan


The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed with intentions of eliminating stereotypes and fear towards disabled individuals and their ability to function and contribute to society. In the employment context, the Act will not permit an employer to refuse to hire an individual solely because of that person's disability. However, it will permit the employer to defend such action when limitations caused by an individual's disability rise to the level of a direct threat to the safety of others. When an employer raises such a defense, circuit courts are split as to whether the burden of proving the existence or absence of a threat should fall respectively on the employer or employee. The Eighth Circuit addressed this issue in EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and concluded that the employer bore the burden of proving direct threat posed by the employee, thereby resolving a previously undecided issue within the circuit. After highlighting the pertinent facts and procedure of EEOC v. WalMart, this note will discuss the background of the Americans with Disabilities Act and introduce the direct threat provision. It will then lay out the court's analysis of the case in light of the framework of the ADA and how other circuits are split in their analyses. Ultimately, this note will argue that the Eighth Circuit's decision was correct and, although the court provided limited substantive reasoning, there is proper justification for the court's decision.

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