SW Legal studies in Business

Disability Employment Discrimination Suit May Be Brought by Independent Contractor

Appeals court held that an independent contractor has the right to sue for employment discrimination based on disability under the Rehabilitation Act, which applies to employers that receive federal funding.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Independent Contractor; Rehabilitation Act

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Dr. Fleming, an anesthesiologist, suffers from sickle cell anemia. He applied for a position as an anesthesiologist at the Yuma Regional Medical Center, but it refused to allow him to practice because of his disease. Fleming sued Yuma for employment discrimination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act. The district court held for Yuma because Fleming was an independent contractor and the Rehabilitation Act does not protect independent contractors. Fleming appealed.


Reversed. The Rehabilitation Act creates a private right of action for individuals subjected to disability discrimination, including in employment, by any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Although Fleming was an independent contractor rather than an employee, he was not foreclosed from claiming disability discrimination against Yuma for failing to hire him and accommodate the operating room and call schedules so as to allow him to work despite his medical condition. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to employees only, the Rehabilitation Act has no such restriction. Hence, Fleming’s suit may proceed.


Fleming v. Yuma Regional Medical Center, ---F.3d--- (2009 WL 3856926, 9th Cir., 2009)

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