Employment-Sixth Circuit Adopts “But For” Standard For Proving ADA Claim

In Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., No. 09-6381 (6th Cir. 2012), the Sixth Circuit adopted the “but for” standard that plaintiffs must meet to prove claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The Court said that the ADA bars discrimination “because of” an employee’s disability, meaning that the ADA prohibits discrimination that is a “but-for” cause of an adverse employment decision. The Sixth Circuit will apply this standard, in lieu of the “sole cause” standard that the Sixth Circuit had used for ADA claims at least since 1995 (see Maddox v. University of Tennessee (6th Cir. 1995)). According to the Court, no other circuit uses the “sole cause” standard. The Court also rejected a “motivating factor” standard.

The “but for” standard-as opposed to the “sole cause” standard- should help plaintiffs succeed in their ADA cases.