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Is Morbid Obesity a Protected Disability? Ninth Circuit Weighs In But Doesn’t Answer the Question

Today’s post highlights one of many examples of cases employers should never have to spend tens of thousands of dollars litigating. In this case, Valtierra v. Medtronic, the plaintiff worked for Medtronic for 10 years and apparently was obese throughout his employment. Plaintiff, whose job was to maintain and repair Medtronic’s manufacturing equipment, admittedly falsified computer records to indicate that he had completed repair assignments when, in fact, he had not done the work. Medtronic fired him (duh). Unable to accept personal responsibility for his own misconduct, Plaintiff sued Medtronic, alleging that he was fired because of his purported disability – morbid obesity.

ADA Litigation Lessons Surfaced From a Zamboni Machine

Employers, you see this movie all too often. You tolerate, and then ultimately discharge, a poor-performing employee who displays a bad attitude. Unfortunately, supervisors have not documented the employee’s prior instances of insubordinate and adversarial behavior. In addition, he hurt himself on the job, filed a workers’ compensation claim, and presented medical restrictions. In his mind, he cannot believe that he was the problem. So he sues, alleging that you failed to accommodate his disability and unlawfully terminated his employment.

Does Asking About Employee’s Alcohol Use Violate the ADA?

In Lansdale v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., No. 16-4106 (July 23, 2019), the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota concluded that a jury had sufficient evidence to find that an employer’s discharge of an employee for suspected corporate credit card abuse following an investigation in which the employee was asked about his alcohol use and drinking habits did not constitute disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or corresponding state law.

Employer’s Good Deed Goes Unpunished—Reliable Attendance Is Essential Function Despite Prior Accommodation of Employee’s Absences

While it’s true that acts of generosity sometimes backfire on those who offer them, the Court’s ruling in Higgins v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., No. 18-1902 (8th Cir. July 24, 2019) shows this is not always the case. In Higgins, the Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Union Pacific—holding that regular, reliable attendance was an essential function of Higgins’ position despite the fact that Union Pacific accommodated Higgins’ poor attendance for over a decade.

Obesity Alone Is Not a Disability Under ADA

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held obesity alone is not a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its ruling in Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority. The Seventh Circuit’s decision is consistent with holdings by the Second, Sixth, and Eighth Circuits.

What Am I Doing Wrong?? Common FMLA Mistakes (July 3, 2019)

“What did I do wrong?” and “Am I doing this correctly” are frequent questions from clients regarding FMLA administration. This is the 24th blog in this series, which digs into the FMLA regulations to address discrete mis-steps that can result in legal liability.

Employee's Obesity Was Not ADA-Protected Disability, 7th Circuit Rules

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not protect an obese bus driver whose employer refused to let him return to work, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. In Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, the appellate court held that obesity is an ADA impairment only if it is the result of an underlying "physiological disorder or condition."

Seventh Circuit Holds That Obesity Alone Is Not a Protected Disability Under the ADA

In a matter of first impression before the court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently held in Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority, Nos. 17-3508 and 18-2199 (June 12, 2019), that obesity is not a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) unless a plaintiff can demonstrate that it is caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. With the decision, the Seventh Circuit brought clarity to a novel issue previously unresolved for employers in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. The holding brings the Seventh Circuit in line with decisions on the issue from the Second Circuit, Sixth Circuit, and Eight Circuit.

Federal Appeals Court Says Extreme Obesity Alone Is Not Enough For ADA Coverage

A federal Court of Appeals just ruled that extreme obesity not caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition does not qualify as an impairment under the ADA. Under the 7th Circuit’s June 12 ruling, proof that extreme obesity was caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition is necessary to implicate coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act. What can employers take from the Richardson v. Chicago Transit Authority decision?

Court Dismisses ADA Claims Alleging “Excessive” Drug and Alcohol Testing

A federal court in New York dismissed a disability discrimination claim asserted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) based on allegedly “excessive” drug and alcohol testing of employees after they failed drug or alcohol tests required under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)’s regulations. Vuono, et al. v. Consolidated Edison of New York, Inc., Case No. 1:18-cv-016365-VEC (S.D.N.Y. June 11, 2019).
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