Resolving an issue of first impression for the circuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that there is no individual liability for retaliation claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Spiegel v. Schulmann, No. 06-5914, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 9274 (2d Cir. May 6, 2010).
The lawsuit alleged that Spiegel was terminated from his position as an instructor at a Tiger Schulmann Karate School because of his weight. Shortly after Spiegel notified defendants of his intent to file a charge of employment discrimination with the Connecticut Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities, Spiegel’s friend and roommate Schatzberg was terminated from his position as an instructor at a different Tiger Schulmann Karate School and the corporate defendant filed a state court action against Spiegel for attempted interference with the contract of another of defendant’s employees. In addition to asserting several other claims (including one under the New York City Human Rights Law which was remanded for further proceedings), Plaintiffs alleged that Schatzberg’s termination and the state court law suit were acts of retaliation in violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of the ADA. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment which was granted in its entirety by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Schulmann at *4-5.
The Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s holding that there is no individual liability for retaliation claims brought under the ADA. Id. at * 15-16. 42 U.S.C. § 12203 sets forth the ADA’s prohibition of retaliation and adopts the general remedies of the overall statute set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 12117. In turn, 42 U.S.C. § 12117 adopts the “powers, remedies, and procedures” set forth in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Second Circuit has previously held that the remedial provisions of Title VII, do not afford a claim for individual liability. Tomka v. Seller Corp., 66 F.3d 1295, 1313-14 (2d Cir. 1995). Therefore, the court explained that it follows that because the retaliation provision of the ADA expressly borrows the remedies set forth in Title VII, it cannot provide for a claim of individual liability. Schulmann, at *15.
In reaching its conclusion, the court recognized that its decision could be arguably contrary to a literal reading of 42 U.S.C. §12203(a) which includes the phrase “no person” and could imply individual liability. Id. at *15. However, the court explained that “12203 presents that ‘rare case ’ in which ‘a broader consideration of’ the ADA, in light of the remedial provisions of Title VII, ‘indicates that this interpretation of the statutory language does not comport with Congress’[s] clearly expressed intent.’” Id., citing Tomka, 66 F.3d at 1314.