In a decision otherwise of little note, a federal appeals court has ruled in a case from Georgia that an employee who, because of her medical condition, was called “cripple” and “hopalong” by her supervisor, did not have a claim under the ADA because she was not “disabled” under the pre-amendment ADA.
The plaintiff argued that she had “stroke level” hypertension, mental illness that affected her ability to concentrate and sleep, spinal arthritis and a bulging disc or sciatica causing chronic back pain, and osteoarthritis that required knee-replacement surgery that affected her ability to walk, stand, and sit. She claimed that she was denied reasonable accommodations.
The Court held, however, that the pre-amendment ADA defines “disability” as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual, and that plaintiff “did not provide evidence indicating that her difficulties walking, sitting, standing, concentrating, and thinking were any worse than similar afflictions suffered by many adults.” She also failed to present sufficient evidence establishing that her physical or mental conditions were severe, long-term or permanent, or that they affected her ability to perform her job.
As to her “regarded as disabled” claim, the Court held that her employer did not regard her as substantially limited in a broad range of jobs or as having a permanent disability. The use of the words “cripple” or “hopalong” apparently did not matter to the Court.
In any event, its good advice not to call people who are disabled names – even if you ultimately win, why tempt fate and why create unnecessary discord or bad faith among employees.