Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Friday, November 18, 2005

Statistics and the ADA - Not a Winner for Plaintiff


Re-emphasizing the Supreme Court's standard that establishing disability under the ADA must meet an "exacting standard," the 4th Circuit holds an employee who needed to lift 75 pounds to do his job, and had a 30 pound lifting restriction following a back injury, was not disabled as that term is defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The plaintiff had tried using a statistical finding by a vocational counselor to show he had a substantial impairment in the major life of activity of working:
The vocational consultant estimated that Taylor’s work experience and educational background qualified him for 3,281 job titles out of the 12,741 job titles listed in the Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles. According to the consultant, Taylor’s injury excluded him from 1,871 job titles, or 57 percent of the job titles for which he would have been qualified absent his injury. These figures translate into disqualification from 370,000 jobs in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Despite his impairment, Taylor remained able to perform the work involved in 1,410 job titles, or over 130,000 jobs in the region.
The Court assumed without deciding that working is a major life activity, but found the district court's grant of summary judgment for the employer in light of these statistics plus evidence that the plaintiff could engage in a "range of daily activities requiring endurance, flexibility, and some strength" was not wrong. Taylor v. Federal Express Corp. (4th Cir. 11/16/05) [pdf].

Responding specifically to the argument that the district court had not given appropriate deference to the consultant's finding, the Court instead held:

Taylor admittedly retains the ability to engage in a wide range of daily activity and to work in over 100,000 jobs in his geographic region, a reasonable juror could not find that his impairment substantially limits his ability to work.

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