Broken Bones

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Cases under the ADA Amendment Act are finally reaching the courts of appeals. In what might be the first case to reach the appellate level on an issue other than whether the statute applied retroactively, the 4th Circuit has determined the following: A plaintiff can plead a sufficiently severe impairment and substantial limitation if he alleges that, after an injury in which he broke both legs and had to undergo multiple surgeries, he was unable to walk for at least seven months. In this case, the employee was a contracted employee assigned to work in a client’s office. He could work remotely, but only after hours to put additional time in on the project. After he fell and broke both legs, he asked for an accommodation – working from home. The employer fired him – we can assume it was because he could not satisfy the client’s demand that work during standard office hours be done at the client’s facility. The trial court dismissed the wrongful discharge and failure to accommodate claims on the ground that the plaintiff had not alleged a disability under the ADA. Applying the ADAAA and the EEOC’s regulations, the court of appeals saw the case differently and reinstated the claim. A severe injury might be a disability, even if it lasts only a few months. Summers v. Altarum Institute, No. 13-1645 (4th Cir. Jan. 23, 2014).