The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently affirmed a district court’s summary judgment dismissal on behalf of our client, USF Holland. The disability discrimination case involved a truck driver who sought to switch from a city driver to a line-haul driver position based on his claim that he could not perform the dock work duties of the city driver position. A copy of the Court’s opinion is attached.
There are good nuggets in this case for employers defending claims of disability discrimination, especially trucking industry or similar physically-demanding positions. Plus, even though the Court applied the facts to pre-ADAAA amendments, the majority of the opinion would stand even in an ADAAA case. In fact, as the Court notes, the ADAAA now makes it eminently clear that an individual that is not actually disabled, but only regarded as disabled, is not entitled to accommodations from his employer and cannot pursue claims related to accommodations.
Significant points from this decision:
- Having work restrictions alone does not render an individual disabled under the ADA.
- An employer does not “regard” an individual as disabled simply because it views the employee as limited in his ability to perform his own job at the Company. The Court held: “Powers has not presented any evidence that Holland viewed him as limited in his ability to work for an employer other than Holland. . . .”
- The existence of a 100% healed policy does not serve as evidence that the employer regarded the claimant as disabled.
My colleague, Jennifer Whitney, had the opportunity to argue this case in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the esteemed bench of the honorable Richard D. Cudahy, Richard A. Posner and Daniel A. Manion. The bench was active, peppering both lawyers with detailed questions. The Court issued its opinion nine months after the oral argument. Judson Stelter also contributed to the appellate brief, and Lisa Jones assisted on the motion for summary judgment.
For me, the case also serves as a reminder of the significant time expended in the judicial process. This case did not languish on the docket, and both the District Court and Court of Appeals moved the case promptly, in my experience. Even so, this has case spent about four years and six months in litigation.