Sexual Impairment Covered under Federal Employee Discrimination Law

July 29, 2008 ( - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ruled that disabilities that impair the ability to have sex are covered under the Rehabilitation Act, the anti-discrimination law for federal employees.

According to the Legal Times, the appellate court reversed a district court’s dismissal of attorney Kathy Adams’ claim that the State Department discriminated against her by denying her medical clearance to serve in the Foreign Service after a bout with breast cancer. The district court dismissed the claim saying the episode of cancer did not qualify as a disability because it was not long-term or permanent.

However, the D.C. Circuit said Adams’ history of cancer did qualify as a disability if she could show it continued to limit a major life activity. Adams declared that the experience, which resulted in a mastectomy and removal of her fallopian tubes and ovaries, had “crippled indefinitely and perhaps permanently” her ability to enter into romantic relationships, the news report said.

In the July 18 opinion, Judge David Tatel said sex is a “significant human activity, one our species has been engaging in at least since the biblical injunction to ‘be fruitful and multiply,'” according to the Legal Times.

Earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit ruled that disabilities that result in sleeplessness are also covered under the Rehabilitation Act (See Sleep Disordered Employees Can Be Target of Workplace Bias ).

Employment lawyers say the rulings open the door for a host of new discrimination claims.