Foreman With Fixable Knee Injury Is Disabled Under The ADA Amendments Act

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt

A foreman who worked for the city of Sanford, Florida had injured his knee while working for the Navy many years prior. The city hired the individual as an equipment operator after he was cleared as physically able to perform the functions of the job. He was promoted two weeks later to the foreman position, which involved physical tasks such as standing, walking, reaching, climbing, stooping, kneeling, crawling and lifting up to 50 pounds. The employee was able to perform the functions, albeit with his own modifications.

In September 2008, he re-injured his knee at work and was placed on light-duty status. He returned to regular duty in June 2009, after his treating physician determined he could resume normal activities except for squatting, kneeling, using stairs, running or jumping. Six months later, the city terminated him because he could not perform the essential functions of his position (walking, standing, lifting, bending and performing manual tasks). The foreman then sued the city for alleged disabilities discrimination.

The court found him to be disabled under the ADAAA because he was able to show that his physical impairment substantially limited one or more of his major life activities. Two doctors had confirmed the employee was permanently restricted from squatting, using stairs, kneeling, running or jumping. While the employee dealt with the injury by taking pain medication and performing tasks in a modified manner, the court noted that mitigating measures could no longer be considered when assessing if an individual is disabled. Indeed, the ADAAA requires the court to “look at the plaintiff’s impairment in a hypothetical stated where it remains untreated.” Further, because the ADAAA lowered the standard for “substantially limits,” and the few courts that have thus far interpreted that phrase have done so very liberally, the court concluded the employee was disabled under the ADAAA.  Harty v. City of Sanford, (M.D. Fla. Aug. 8, 2012).

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