Plasma donation centers routinely adopt policies that preclude individuals with mental illnesses from donating blood plasma. While plasma donation centers assert that their policies are motivated by employee and customer safety, such safety concerns are unsubstantiated. These policies are based on speculation and stereotypes, rather than scientific evidence. But discrimination against people with mental illness is only unlawful if perpetrated by an entity subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and circuit courts are split on whether blood plasma donation centers fall within the ADA’s parameters. In 2016, the Tenth Circuit held that blood plasma donation centers are “service establishments” under Title III of the ADA but, two years later, the Fifth Circuit held the opposite. In 2019, the Third Circuit weighed in, agreeing with the Tenth Circuit.
This Note argues that the Fifth Circuit’s holding is unpersuasive, and that blood plasma donation centers should constitute “service establishments” under the ADA. Accordingly, this Note argues for the finding that, when blood plasma donation centers discriminate against individuals with mental illness, the centers are violating the ADA. This Note begins with a discussion of blood plasma donation facilities and the ADA. Next, it summarizes the three Circuit Court cases in question. This Note then proposes three reasons why plasma donation centers are ADA “service establishments”: first, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), an agency tasked with enforcing the ADA, itself interprets “service establishments” as including plasma donation centers, and the DOJ’s interpretation warrants deference; second, the Fifth Circuit did not adequately respond to the plaintiff’s statutory purpose argument; third, for compelling policy reasons, courts should be motivated to find that plasma collection centers are “service establishments,” namely, to diminish public stigma and the harmful effects that flow therefrom, and to show those with mental illnesses the respect and dignity that they are owed.
Marielle Forrest, “Categorically Unsafe” to Donate, 2022 ULR 443 (2022). https://doi.org/10.26054/0d-j280-ffsw.