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People with severe allergies and epilepsy are protected from discrimination by the Americans with Disabilities Act, an Iowa appellate court ruled Wednesday, reversing a lower court's ruling.
The case of Shannon Knudsen v. Tiger Tots Community Child Care Center Corp. was appealed to an Iowa appellate court after the Iowa District Court for Polk County determined that a child's tree nut allergy does not constitute a disability according to the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
The case centers on Ms. Knudsen, mother of a child with a tree nut allergy, who approached Tiger Tots' management about “special care needs” based on the allergies before enrolling her child, according to court documents. Tiger Tots refused to admit the child because of her allergies, court documents stated.
Ms. Knudsen sued the Madrid, Iowa-based child care center in 2011, alleging that Tiger Tots' refusal to admit the child based on her allergies amounted to disability discrimination under ICRA.
Ms. Knudsen appealed to the Iowa Court of Appeals in Des Moines after the lower court ruled that “the physical condition advanced by the plaintiffs does not constitute a disability” under ICRA.
In a 2-1 decision, however, the appellate court ruled that the federal definition of disability under the ADA applies in Iowa.
Considering that the ADA may protect the child from discrimination, “we are persuaded that federal law establishes the framework for an analysis of 'disability' under state law,” Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Anuradha Vaitheswaran wrote.
Appellate Judge Gayle Nelson Vogel dissented, noting that state's Legislature has not expanded Iowa's law in this area to mirror the federal statute, which was amended in 2008 to expand the definition of disability, according to court documents.
The case was reversed and remanded to the lower court for further proceedings.
The board of directors for Tiger Tots reportedly will decide this month whether to appeal the decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.