Tag Archives: reasonable accommodations

Article – Public Accommodations Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title II of the Civil Rights Act is turning 50 this year.  Yep, that makes it officially middle-aged.  It is not a young law anymore, nor is an old law.  Middle-aged seems apropos for this law. 

The law is still being argued and debated about its application.  For example, I have argued recently, police departments have an affirmative duty under Title II of the Civil rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act to make reasonable accommodations during investigations for those who they know ahead of time suffer from serious mental illnesses.

As with any anniversary, it is a good time to be retrospective.  While I don’t agree with all the conclusions this article makes, I think it is a good timely critical analysis of a perhaps under-recognized piece of legislation in present day society. 

 On its fiftieth anniversary, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 enjoys widespread social support on all sides of the political spectrum. That support is fully deserved to the extent that the nondiscrimination in public accommodations provisions offset the monopoly power of common carriers and public utilities, or neutralize the abusive application of public power and private violence to sup-press the free entry of firms that would otherwise target minority customers in competitive markets.

The subsequent expansion of Title II’s nondiscrimination principle becomes much more difficult to justify, however, when applied to normal businesses when segregationist forces no longer hold sway. In particular, these principles are suspect when applied to membership organizations that care about their joint governance and common objectives. In these cases, the principles of freedom of association should constitutionally protect all groups, even those that do not fall under the uncertain rubric of expressive associations.

The application of the modern antidiscrimination rules for public accommodations to Christian groups who are opposed to gay marriage on moral principle represents a regrettable inversion of the original purpose of Title II, using state power to force these groups to the unpalatable choice of exiting the market or complying with these modern human rights laws that prohibit any discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. These rules should be struck down even if the other antidiscrimination prohibitions represent a group of settled expectations that no one today wishes to overturn.

Richard A. Epstein, Public Accommodations Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Why Freedom of Association Counts as a Human Right, 66 Stan. L. Rev. 1241.

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Phoenix Police Kill During Mental-Health Call

Last week the Phoenix Police Department shot and killed a woman while trying to serve a mental health order.  Caseworkers “were trying to get her to come in for treatment. It got to the point that she wouldn’t do that. … She had a weapon and was making threats.”  Reported the AZ Republic.

Last spring I gave a talk to several Arizona charities and non-profits about what the Americans with Disabilities Act requires as “reasonable accommodations” when law enforcement agencies enter into situations with people who they knew have a mental illness.  The ADA was passed by Congress only in 1990 and only a handful of cases involving the ADA and the police have made it to federal court of appeals, let alone cases specifically dealing with mental illness.  This is an emerging area of the law and there is not much written about it.

The Police’s Duty to Accommodate Under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Police Have Affirmative Duty to Accommodate Disabilities.

This incident with the Phoenix Police Department fits that situation precisely.  The Phoenix Police Department is a law enforcement agency and is governed by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, dealing with public entities.  Title 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et. seq.  A person with a serious mental illness with a serious mental illness qualifies for the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Title 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (1).  Lastly, since the police are aware of the disability, they should make reasonable accommodations.

“Title II’s affirmative obligation to accommodate persons with disabilities in the administration of justice cannot be said to be so out of proportion to a supposed remedial or preventive object that it cannot be understood as responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior. It is, rather, a reasonable prophylactic measure, reasonably targeted to a legitimate end.”  Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 533 (2004) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Even the United States Supreme Court acknowledged individuals with mental illness are persons with disabilities who have suffered unconstitutional behavior in the past, and need the prophylactic protections of the ADA.

[T]he mentally retarded have been subject to a ‘lengthy and tragic history,’ of segregation and discrimination that can only be called grotesque.

— City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 461 (1985) (Marshall, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (quoting University of California Regents v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 303 (1978)).

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