Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Difficulties Under the ADA When Work Is the Major Life Activity

The First Circuit notes that the Supreme Court has not yet accepted that "work" is a major life activity under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In Sullivan v. The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. (1st Cir. 2/13/04) it discusses what it thinks the Supreme Court meant when it held there are "conceptual difficulties inherent in the argument that working could be a major life activity." The problem as the Court sees it:
One of these difficulties poses a significant Catch-22 dilemma for an ADA claimant such as Sullivan. To be eligible for ADA protection, he must demonstrate that he is a "qualified individual" for the position at issue. [cite omitted] By demonstrating that his ability to work is substantially impaired, he may demonstrate that he is unqualified for the job and, therefore, excluded from ADA protection. If he does not introduce such evidence, however, he may fail to show that he was substantially impaired.
In this case the impairment was alcoholism, a category which the court notes is even harder to prevail on because of the statutory provision in the ADA that allows an employer to hold alcoholics to the same standards as other employees, even if the impact on their performance is due to alcoholism.


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