News Release

What Does the Chevron Doctrine’s Overruling Mean for Disabled People?

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The future of public agencies is uncertain after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Relentless Inc. v. Department of Commerce and Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which overruled the Chevron doctrine. Experts say that disabled Americans will be disproportionately impacted by the decision. 

MARISSA DITKOWSKY; to schedule an interview, email press@nationalpartnership.org  
    Ditkowsky is a disabled activist and attorney who serves as the Disability Economic Justice Counsel at the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Ditkowsky told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “This decision could impact the regulations and work of all public agencies––from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Public agency regulations protect the environment; clarify prohibitions on discrimination in employment, health care and other settings; hold banks and lenders accountable; and so much more. Everyone is at risk––except for the special interests that stand to benefit and profit. 

“We don’t know how courts will evaluate regulations after Loper Bright/Relentless, and it’s not clear what changes will be made on the agency level. But one thing we do expect to see in the very near term is a floodgate of lawsuits attacking public agency regulations that have protected the American people for decades. In the long-term, these attacks could have devastating effects on our environment; health; the number of quality job opportunities; the availability of safe, accessible and affordable housing; and more.”

Ditwkosky stressed that disabled people are going to be disproportionately affected by the ruling. “While disabled workers are struggling to make ends meet,” she said, “ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices have made it easier for employers to steal wages from hard working Americans. While disabled people of color contend with the health impacts of environmental racism, this decision makes it easier for major polluters to let carcinogens into the ground and water. While disabled people are doing everything they can to keep their communities free from violence, neglect and abuse, this decision endangers those in assisted living settings by undermining the rules that keep them safe.

“The Supreme Court’s extreme decision puts the strong rules that protect the health and economic security of disabled consumers and workers in jeopardy, including:

  • HHS’ new 504 and 1557 regulations, which stand to protect millions of disabled Americans who may otherwise be unable to access life-saving health care;
  • The EEOC’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) regulations, which support disabled pregnant people whose conditions are exacerbated or caused by pregnancy; 
  • Rules that strengthen website accessibility requirements for state and local governments, allowing disabled people to access critical services and information; 
  • The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) historic regulations requiring airlines to improve the accessibility of bathrooms on airplanes, and threatening the possibility of finalizing DOT’s proposed rules allowing wheelchair users to fly safely; 
  • Rules that prohibit landlords and mortgage lenders from discriminating against applicants based on their disability;
  • Department of Education regulations that made it easier for disabled borrowers to apply for Total and Permanent Disability Discharge and other types of federal student loan discharge. 

“The PWFA and 1557 regulations, for example, are in active litigation, meaning the impact of this decision may soon be realized. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Public agencies enforce many laws, and run a great number of programs that protect and support the physical, emotional and economic health of disabled people. All of these activities are at risk. 

“This topic can be a difficult one to discuss in layman’s terms. No one, except the lawyers who create and apply these legal doctrines, really knows or cares what the Chevron doctrine is… Media coverage has been missing the real impact on marginalized communities, particularly disabled people, people of color, women, and LGBTQI+ folks.”

Ditkowsky emphasized that the public should “pay attention to who really benefits from this power grab. Instead of deferring to public agencies’ expertise on topics like the environment, civil rights, housing and health care, ultra-conservative justices have granted themselves, and their allies on lower courts, even more authority to rewrite the rules in favor of special interests and major corporations at the expense of the American people, our health and our economic security. 

“The only thing that is clear about this result is that current regulations that protect the American people are in danger, leaving public agencies open to lawsuits simply for doing their jobs. This could have a chilling effect on public agencies and their ability to finalize new regulations to protect our health and economic security. We must be ready to defend public servants and the regulations they’ve worked so hard to implement, which place the interests of the American people above corporate and special interests. 

“While this decision is devastating, it does not completely remove agencies’ legal authority to protect the public through rulemaking. Agencies still have a responsibility to the American people. Agencies should employ best practices for any rulemaking process, including ensuring: thoroughness of evidence considered; quality of legal reasoning; consistency with other agency actions and regulatory antecedents; clarity on statutory authorization and delegation from Congress; and that agency expertise is utilized.”