The Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 etseq., is Congress' most extensive piece of civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Its purpose is to provide "a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities." 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). The ADA's coverage is accordingly broad -- prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government programs and services, transportation systems, telecommunications, commercial facilities, and the provision of goods and services offered to the public by private businesses.
In enacting the ADA, Congress explicitly invoked "the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities." 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(4). This case concerns Title I of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-17, which prohibits disability discrimination by private and public employers. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111(5)(A), 12112(a). Because the Defendant in this action is a city employer, this memorandum addresses only the constitutionality of Title I's provisions with respect to such employers. As set forth below, both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause provide authority for Congress to enact these provisions.
II TITLE I OF THE ADA IS A VALID EXERCISE OF CONGRESS' POWER TO REMEDY DENIALS OF EQUAL PROTECTION PURSUANT TO SECTION 5 OF THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT