News & Events

News & Events

7.11.2006

Washington State Supreme Court Narrows Definition of Disability Under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination

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In an employer-friendly decision, a fractured Washington Supreme Court has adopted the federal definition of “disability” and rejected the definition promulgated by the Washington Human Rights Commission (“HRC”). In McClarty v. Totem Electric, a 5-4 majority ostensibly resolved the ongoing debate over the proper definition of a disability under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”), holding that “a plaintiff bringing suit under the WLAD establishes that he has a disability if he has (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) a record of such an impairment, or (3) is [sic] regarded as having such an impairment.” This definition is identical to “disability” as defined under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The ruling is a striking departure from the more expansive definition of disability found in WAC 162-22-020, which Washington courts had previously adopted. View full article (PDF).