An employee who suffered sporadic muscle flare-ups can sue his employer for disability discrimination where the business failed to accommodate his occasional problem, a federal appeals court recently ruled.
The worker, a parts manager at an AutoZone store, had a condition that caused intermittent tightening in his back muscles. When the condition flared up, he couldn’t perform specific tasks.
The company fired him after keeping him on involuntary medical leave for more than a year.
The worker sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In response, AutoZone argued that he wasn’t “disabled” because his condition only occasionally limited him in his ability to perform major life activities.
The 7th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, however, disagreed, and said a “predictable yet intermittent pattern” of muscle problems could amount to a disability under the ADA.
The ADA defines “disability” as (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual; (b) a record of such an impairment; or (c) being regarded as having such an impairment. See 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2) (2006). The EEOC relied on subsection (a), a physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, to argue that the employee was disabled from March 2003 to September 12, 2003, because his condition substantially limited his ability to engage in the major life activity of caring for himself.