“Unequal Treatment or Uneven Consequence,” Sara Pfister Johnston

sociopolitical perspective of disability


Taking an analytical approach, Sara Pfister Johnston’s 2013 dissertation “Unequal treatment or uneven consequence: a content analysis of Americans with Disabilities Act Title I disparate impact cases from 1992 – 2012” dissects the raw litigation data of disparate impact cases in order to find relevant legal trends in judicial rulings made under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Examining precedent is one way to determine what issues the court finds salient across a body of law. Precedent-setting decisions in appellate court cases also delimit the decisions of the lower district courts. Once precedent has been set by a higher court, lower courts, which hear the majority of cases, are reluctant to go against precedent in future cases containing the same or similar fact patterns. Thus, future appellants in cases with similar fact patterns may find that precedent set in the earlier cases narrows the scope of relief available to them.

The trends found and discussed in this dissertation help provide a legal framework for instating specific disability related provisions in order to prevent future litigation. Because the workplace policies and procedures identified in the cases that comprise this study are neutral on their face rather than intentionally discriminatory, employers may benefit from information that assists them in evaluating their policies and procedures proactively.


Sara Pfister Johnston. “Tending to the past: the historical poetics of Joy
Harjo and Natasha Trethewey
” PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2014.