In a recent case, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a jury verdict
where an employer failed to take the proper steps under theAmericans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In
Jones v. Nissan N. Am. Inc., the court determined that because the employer – Nissan North America
– failed to conduct an individualized inquiry concerning an individual’s
actual ability to perform his job, a lower court jury determination for
Nissan must be thrown out and the employee was entitled to damages.
Under the ADA, employers are required to determine what is a disability
on an individualized basis. In some situations, if you are regarded as
or perceived as disabled you may be protected by the ADA. This means that
if an employer takes an adverse action against an employee who they regard
as disabled, this action may violate the ADA. It’s important to
consult an experienced
disability discrimination lawyer if you believe your employer has violated the ADA.
Here the employee – Mark Jones – developed an elbow injury
at work requiring surgery. In a workers’ compensation proceeding
that resulted from the injury, a state chancery court determined he was
entitled to vocational disability. The court order did not set out any
specific tasks that Jones could not perform but simply said to avoid heavy
lifting. Relying on the court order, Nissan imposed medical restrictions
on Jones without reviewing what Jones could or could not do. For example
Nissan barred Jones from using hand tools, although they weren’t
mentioned in the order. Nissan also barred Jones from all lifting, not
just heavy. Jones subsequently refused to sign a form stating he was unable
to do his job because he was still able to perform most of the tasks associated
with his work.
Jones was then placed on medical leave and did not receive a paycheck.
While on leave he took another job. Nissan then fired him. Jones sued
under the ADA asserting that Nissan’s treatment of him constituted
disability discrimination because he was “regarded as” disabled. The jury found for
Nissan, but the appellate court overturned this determination noting that
Nissan failed to conduct any individualized inquiry and that it drew “unfounded
inferences” from the worker’s compensation court order that
lead it to impose “unsupported medical restrictions…This
constitutes discrimination under the ADA.” The court also stated
that relying on the worker’s compensation finding would undermine the ADA.
If your employer perceives you or regards you as disabled – they
must conduct an individualized inquiry into your actual medical condition.
Failure to do so may constitute a violation of the ADA.
For more information or if you believe your employer perceives you as disabled
and has taken adverse actions against you as a result, you may have a
claim under the ADA. Contact the knowledgeable
Atlanta disability discrimination lawyers at The Buckley Law Firm, LLC for a confidential consultation.