The Inability To Work For A Particular Supervisor Is NOT A Disability Under The ADAAA

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reconfirmed the well-established principle under the Americans with Disabilities Act that an employee must be unable to work in a broad class or range of jobs in order to be disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).  In particular, in Woolf v. Strada, the Second Circuit held that an employee who was unable to work in his particular job as a result of stress arising from the circumstances surrounding that job was not disabled when he did not establish he was unable to work in a class or broad range of jobs.

Mr. Woolf started worked for Bloomberg L.P. as a sales rep in 2011.  He voluntarily identified that he did not have a disability or history of disability.  Between 2011 and 2013, Woolf developed severe migraines, which impaired his ability to work and his life activities generally.  His migraines were work-stress related.  Wolff was not rated well in performance reviews and was counseled due to poor performance.  He sought a transfer but was informed he was unable to be considered given his performance review ratings and disciplinary status.

Woolf requested medical leave and that he be permitted to perform the same job but with different supervisors.  Bloomberg granted Woolf his medical leave but did not transfer him to different supervisors.  Ultimately, Woolf was terminated for continued poor performance.  Woolf then sued for a variety of state and federal discrimination claims and lost on summary judgment.  On appeal, the Second Circuit addressed only whether Woolf’s migraines substantially limited his major life activity of working.  In concluding they did not, the Second Circuit focused on Woolf’s own admissions that his migraines were caused by working under his direct supervisors and that he believed he could perform the job if he were transferred to a different location or managed by different supervisors.

An employee’s inability to perform a single, particular job does not constitute a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working.  “This longstanding, common-sense principle of law recognizes that employees who are precluded only from doing their specific job, or from working under a specific supervisor, do not have a ‘disability'” and continues to apply even after the ADAAA’s enactment in 2008.

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