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A disabled worker who sues her employer for denying her a handicapped parking spot cannot bring claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act invoking both Title I and Title III — both the employment and “public accommodation” provisions — a federal judge has ruled. In his 13-page opinion in DeWyer v. Temple University, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter found that Congress structured the ADA so that all employment claims would be brought under Title I. Buckwalter dismissed Judy DeWyer’s Title III claim, but allowed her Title I claim to go forward. According to court papers, DeWyer began working for Temple in 1980 and was diagnosed in 1996 with degenerative disc disease in her back. She claims she asked her supervisor at the time if she could use a handicapped parking spot if she were able to acquire a handicapped parking placard. In the meantime, she says, she was forced to park 250 yards away and down a hill from the building where she worked. DeWyer claims that in 1998, a new supervisor took over and she became the only white worker in an otherwise all African-American department. When she received the handicapped placard, DeWyer claims she began using the handicapped parking spot — as her former supervisor had agreed she could — but that the new supervisor decided that another worker, who is African-American, was entitled to the space. When DeWyer ignored the supervisor’s instructions not to park there, she claims that he cited her for insubordination and threatened to fire her if she parked there again. DeWyer filed a grievance with her union alleging discrimination. Afterward, she said, the supervisor retaliated by demanding a doctor’s note to justify her wearing sneakers to work, accusing her of sleeping on the job and denying her vacation requests. In August 1999, DeWyer took a medical leave of absence and was fired when the leave expired later that year. DeWyer’s lawyer, Richard J. Silverberg, brought claims against Temple under both Title I and Title III of the ADA, as well as similar claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. He also brought claims of “aiding and abetting” against the supervisor under both the ADA and the PHRA, and a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. But Buckwalter found that the Title III claims failed as a matter of law. “Title I speaks directly to plaintiff’s claim that she asked for and was denied access to disabled persons’ parking which she needed to access her workplace comfortably,” Buckwalter wrote. “To find Title III applicable in this case would be to ignore Congress’ attempt to carve out specific legislation to govern disability discrimination in the employment context,” he wrote. Although Buckwalter said he could “conceive of a scenario” in which a worker might have valid claims under both Title I and Title III, he said that the plaintiff in such a case “would have to show that she seeks another benefit or privilege that is unrelated to her employment but is directly connected to her employer’s physical space.” DeWyer, he said, “cannot make such a dual showing.” “The court is unwilling to allow plaintiff to circumvent statutory distinctions with convenient self-labeling,” Buckwalter wrote. Because the parking issue was directly related to her job, he said, DeWyer cannot “characterize herself as a non-employee for the sake of qualifying under Title III as well as Title I.”

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