Here's a cautionary tale from the Sixth Circuit about disabilities discrimination: just because an employee is medically restricted in some aspect of their job does not automatically translate into a covered "disability" for purposes of the ADA. The court affirms summary judgment here, holding that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADAAA") - while it liberalized other parts of the statute - did not change the definition of "working" as a "major life activity."
While somewhat out of the lane of employment law, this Title III ADA case - about whether a restaurant ought to have accommodated a parent's request to allow a child to bring his own food on a field trip - has some good general lessons for disability-discrimination law.
As often as discrimination cases turn on hostility towards protected-class employees, it pays to remember that the same laws apply no less to discrimination motivated by other reasons, such as misguided paternalism. Here, the Fourth Circuit sends a case back for a trial where a hospital believed that 28-year-veteran employee could no longer safely navigate its campus.
The First Circuit affirms that, in an ADA case, it is often not necessary to present expert medical testimony to prove a disability. Nevertheless, the panel affirms summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff - a police sergeant with a knee injury - failed to prove that his impairment substantially limited him in the major life activities of standing, walking, and bending.
The Sixth Circuit affirms a jury award in an ADA case of $27,565 in back pay and $250,000 in compensatory damages, awarded to a dollar-store clerk who was fired for grabbing orange juice from the store fridge twice during diabetic episodes. The panel notes, among other things, that the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation can itself be direct evidence of discrimination.
ADA opinions released in the Eighth and Ninth Circuits today underscore that the burden of proof, ultimately, is always on the employee to show that the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. These serve as a reminder to disabled employees and counsel that when seeking reassignment as an accommodation, it is vital to request the reassignment clearly and to set one's sights realistically.
The Sixth Circuit affirms a jury verdict for an in-house lawyer in Tennessee, including $92,000.00 in compensatory damages and $18,184.32 in backpay. The court holds that the jury could have found that the employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (and state law) duty to accommodate, by failing to allow a ten-week period of telecommuting during the lawyer's pregnancy bedrest.
In the ceaseless struggle over what is meant by "similarly situated," an Eleventh Circuit splits over whether the plaintiff - a Black woman detective with a heart condition - presented enough evidence that two white male officers who failed a physical-fitness requirement were treated better. The case also considers, for an ADA claim, whether receiving a Taser shock or pepper spraying in training was an "essential function" of the job.
Courts are split over whether, under the ADA, employers who are able to reassign incumbent employees to accommodate their disabilities must do so outside of a normal competitive, "best-qualified" application process. The Eleventh Circuit this week joined the fray, holding that employers do not need to abandon a so-called "best-qualified" policy for filling vacancies, even as a reasonable accommodation.