Middle District Court of Tennessee No. 3:06 CV 0626, 2007 WL 2908841 October 4, 2007 Keywords:
employment, interactive process, substantial limitation
Facts of the Case
Mr. Vaughan was employed by UPS as a Part-Time Supervisor, responsible for walking through the hub to ensure quality control as packages were loaded, clearing jams, and building “package walls.” This job requires the employee to stand and walk up to five and one half hours a day, to lift, lower, push, pull, leverage and manipulate equipment and/or packages weighing up to 70 pounds and to lift packages above the shoulder.
Mr. Vaughan suffered a neck and shoulder injury while at work. He obtained medical treatment and had surgery. UPS allowed Mr. Vaughan to return to work on “light duty” with specific medical restrictions. His doctor then issued permanent work restrictions that prohibited him from standing or walking more than four hours, lifting more than twenty pounds “more than occasionally,” and lifting above the shoulder. UPS concluded that given the permanent restrictions, Mr. Vaughan would be unable to work in the capacity of Part-Time Supervisor because the restrictions prevented him from performing the essential functions of that position. Mr. Vaughan asked if he was eligible for another position at UPS that did not involve heavy lifting. UPS informed him that there were no such positions available and that no one could meet with him to discuss this. Mr. Vaughan voluntarily resigned from UPS as part of the settlement of a worker’s compensation lawsuit. He brought this action for disability discrimination under the ADA shortly after.
Issues of the Case
- Whether Mr. Vaughan met the elements required to show that UPS discriminated against him on the basis of a disability by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation.
Arguments & Analysis
1. Mr. Vaughan argued that UPS discriminated against him on the basis of his disability in violation of ADA Title I by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation and engage in the interactive process.
UPS argued that the plaintiff failed to establish the first two elements of ADA employment discrimination: 1) that he is an individual with a disability, and 2) he is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. UPS disputed whether Mr. Vaughan’s impairment substantially limits his participation in major life activities.
2. The court indicated that an individual with a back condition may be substantially limited in his ability to work if the condition “prevents the individual from performing any heavy labor job,” even if he is able to perform jobs in another class.
The court concluded Mr. Vaughan raised an issue of material fact whether he is substantially limited in his ability to work in the class of jobs involving heavy labor and, thus, met the first element for discrimination under the ADA that he is a qualified individual with a disability.
3. Additionally, the court determined UPS did not offer any evidence to contradict Mr. Vaughan’s accusations that UPS failed to provide a reasonable accommodation, and concluded Mr. Vaughan raised an issue of material fact whether UPS engaged in an interactive process.
Therefore, Mr. Vaughan established the second element of discrimination under the ADA.
Mr. Vaughan raised issues of material fact whether UPS discriminated against him on the basis of his disability by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation, and denied UPS’s motion for summary judgment (i.e., to dismiss the case).
Policy & Practice
An individual with a back condition may be substantially limited in his ability to work if the condition “prevents [him] from performing any heavy labor job,” even if he is able to perform jobs in another class
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These materials were prepared by the legal research staff of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University in partnership with the Southeast ADA Center to highlight legal and policy developments relevant to civil rights protections and the impact of court decisions in the Southeast Region under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These materials are based on federal disability rights laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state disability rights law can change at any time. In addition, state and local laws and regulations may provide different or additional protections. Materials are intended solely as informal guidance, and are neither a determination of your legal rights nor responsibilities under the ADA or other federal, state, and local laws, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA. The accuracy of any information contained herein is not warranted. Any links to external websites are provided as a courtesy and are not intended to nor do they constitute an endorsement of the linked materials.