Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Perceived Disability Cases Not That Easy


Once the courts took a restrictive view of the definition of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the concern of employers was that the path to successful claims would be through the 'perceived' prong of the ADA definition. But Epps v. City of Pine Lawn (8th Cir. 12/19/03) [pdf] shows that the most frequent pattern, an employer decides that the employee can't perform a particular job, won't be enough to make a perceived disability claim. Here the City terminated Epps a 13 year veteran of the police force because he was no longer physically able to perform the role of a patrolman. But that perception, based on a doctor's opinion, is not enough. The money quote on the key distinction: "an employer is free to decide that . . . some limiting, but not substantially limiting, impairments make individuals less than ideally suited for a job." As it turns out, the difference between limiting and substantially limiting is much larger than anyone could have imagined.

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