Keeping an Eye on “Perceived Disability” Litigation in California: Chadam v. Palo Alto Unified School District

We mentioned in January that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s earlier decision to grant a motion to dismiss and is instead allowing the case of Chadam v. Palo Alto Unified School District to move forward. At that time, we explained that this case should remain high on the watch list for genetic rights advocates, as it involves whether a genotype (such as carrier status for an autosomal recessive condition like cystic fibrosis) is a “perceived disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C.A. §§12131 et seq.) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C.A. § 794).

A case management conference was held in March. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered standard pretrial preparation and referred the case to U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James for alternative dispute resolution. The parties are scheduled to have a settlement conference the last week of July, but a five-day jury trial has been set for fall of next year (September 24, 2018).

Advocates for strong genetic nondiscrimination rights have been preoccupied with legislative threats (such as HR.1313) to GINA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. It is important to not forget about other applicable laws at both the federal level (such as ADA and Section 504) and the state level.