Technology as a Panacea: Why Pregnancy-Related Problems Should Be Defined Without Regard to Mitigating Measures Under the ADA
In Gabriel v. City of Chicago, the Northern District of Illinois held that, while pregnancy is not a per se disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"),' pregnancy-related problems can be considered disabilities under the ADA. The holding in Gabriel, however, was not unique, as many other district courts have reached the same conclusion regarding pregnancy-related problems. The real question in cases such as Gabriel is whether the pregnancy- related problem at issue constitutes a disability under the ADA. This question requires an analysis of whether the pregnancy-related problem is a physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity of the plaintiff.
The analysis is complicated by a split in the circuits as to whether a disability should be assessed with or without regard to mitigating measures. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), as well as a majority of the circuits, have stated that the disability in question should be assessed without regard to available corrective measures. This split presents an interesting issue in terms of pregnancy-related problems: Should they be assessed as disabilities notwithstanding the ever-advancing medical and reproductive technologies? This Note answers that question in the affirmative. If the availability of technologically advanced reproductive medical techniques is allowed to define what is and is not a pregnancy-related problem, the list of potential ADA-covered disabilities may become unmanageable. It is much more logical, as many of the circuits and the EEOC have found, to analyze a disability in its unmitigated state.
This Note begins in Part II by briefly discussing the history and purpose of the ADA. Next, it looks at the history of pregnancy discrimination and the remedial measures available to plaintiffs. Then, the Note turns to the ADA and discusses the current law regarding what constitutes a disability, pregnancy-related problems under the ADA, and the current split in the circuits regarding mitigating measures. Part III discusses technology as a mitigating measure, particularly in relation to pregnancy-related problems. This section of the Note explores the consequences that may flow from a decision to evaluate disabilities with regard to mitigating measures. Part IV concludes by proposing that pregnancy-related problems should not be assessed with regard to mitigating measures and technological advances, but rather should be defined in terms of the impairment's impact on a person's life activities.