A discharged employee is entitled to go to trial on his claim of a hostile work environment under the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), according to a federal district court. Maggio v. Konica-Minolta Business Solutions USA, (Case No. 06 C 2893, 9/15/08). The employee, Maggio, was a Vietnam veteran who worked in a service capacity for Minolta prior to its merger with Konica in 2003. Maggio suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and hypertension and had difficulty walking long distances, climbing stairs, lifting large items and standing for extended periods of time because of his war injuries and arthritis. The defendant claimed that it terminated Maggio as part of a reduction in force after the merger. U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly denied the employer’s Motion for Summary Judgment as to hostile work environment claim even though the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet recognized the existence of such a claim.
Maggio claimed that he was subjected to the following: he was called names for parking in a handicapped parking space; a co-worker allegedly vandalized his car; co-workers were asked to take pictures of him to assess his level of disability; co-workers would steal his work carts, which were provided to accommodate his disability; he was excluded from computer training or use of computers; he received a “provisional” performance evaluation that led to the denial of an annual raise; and he received anonymous notes that referred to him as “fat ass”. While the Court held that much of the alleged harassment was isolated and would not permit a reasonable jury to find an abusive environment, the absence of the shop carts and the sum total of the conduct could detract from his work performance or hinder his advancement. The Court noted that the operative language of the ADA is indistinguishable from parallel language in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, therefore, it agreed with other court of appeals that have determined that a plaintiff may assert a hostile work environment claim under the ADA.