Last week, the Supreme Court turned down the opportunity to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Yuma Anesthesia Med. Servs. LLC v. Fleming. In that case, a physician working at a hospital alleged that he was discriminated against because he had sickle-cell anemia. There was no dispute that the physician was an independent contractor, not an employee. And the Americans With Disabilities Act (like California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act) deals exclusively with the employment relationship. But the physician argued that the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which applies to employers who receive federal funds, extends its protections to independent contractors.
Federal appeals courts addressing this issue are split. The Ninth and Tenth Circuits say independent contractors are covered. The Sixth and Eighth Circuits disagree. That would seem to make this an ideal opportunity for the Supreme Court to provide clarity. Still, the Court, with no elaboration or explanation, declined to do so. Therefore, until the split between the Circuits gets resolved, employers in California who receive federal funds must not only reasonably accommodate disabled employees, they must also accommodate disabled independent contractors.