The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has returned to a federal district court litigation alleging that a karate instructor was fired because he was obese in violation of a New York City law that forbids disability-based workplace discrimination. Spiegel v. Schulmann, No. 06-5914 (2d Cir., decided May 6, 2010). According to the appeals court, no cases have yet addressed whether the city law applies to the obese, and the lower court was directed to consider whether the plaintiff had made a prima facie case of discrimination under that law.

The plaintiff, who claimed his roommate was fired from a similar position after the plaintiff notified the defendant that he intended to file an employment discrimination charge, also alleged unlawful retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Affirming the lower court’s dismissal of this claim, the appeals court found that the ADA does not permit an individual to be held liable for retaliation. As to the plaintiff’s claim of unlawful discrimination under a state law prohibiting disability-based workplace discrimination, the court cited case law holding that weight-based discrimination requires evidence that a plaintiff is incapable of meeting the employer’s weight requirements due to a cognizable medical condition. Because the plaintiff’s physician diagnosed him with hypogonadism without linking the condition to his weight, the court found no competent medical evidence confirming the connection.

While the appeals court remanded the case for consideration of the remaining city law-based claim, it also allowed the district court to decide whether to “exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this claim” or to dismiss the claim without prejudice to its re-filing in state court for this area of the law to be further developed in the state courts.