In the next few months the United States Supreme Court is expected to decide two important cases on the rights of persons with disabilities.
The first case, Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, is a challenge to the decision of the State of California to lower the rates paid to doctors and hospitals for Medicaid services. The suit was brought by persons receiving Medicaid and doctors and hospitals, who assert that the lowering of rates will cause doctors and hospitals to drop out of the program, making it harder for enrollees to get services.
The question before the Supreme Court is whether Medicaid enrollees and doctors and hospitals can also go to a court and ask the court to prevent this type of reduction in rates. If the Supreme Court decides that the courts can consider these cases, Medicaid enrollees will have an important new tool in advocacy to ensure that State Medicaid programs provide adequate services.
In the second case, Hosanna-Taylor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v EEOC, the Court will decide whether ministers and other teachers in religious schools are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case involves a teacher in a church-affiliated school who was fired because she threatened to bring an ADA case to protect her rights to continue in her job despite a history of sleep disorders. The church claims that in her teaching role she was also serving as a minister of the church, and that the courts have ruled that the ADA does not apply to ministers.
In this case, the Supreme Court may develop broad principles on whether employees of a church with religious duties are exempt from the ADA. If so, the court may also decide which employees are exempt; only those who teach classes in religion, or those who teach subjects such as history and literature, but are expected to be guided by religious principles in their teaching. Hundreds of thousands of employees could be affected.