Calling a Co-Worker “Stupid” Not Enough to Prove “Disability”, Court Says

by Pullman & Comley, LLC
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With the changes to the ADA laws a few years back broadening the definition of a “disability”, there was some speculation (including on this blog) that we would not see very many instances where a court would throw out an ADA claim on the grounds that the employee could not prove he had a disability.

And indeed, that theory has largely been proven correct. It’s quite rare to see that happen.

But rare does not equal never, as the plaintiff in the Adams v. Festival Fun Parks (d/b/a Lake Compounce Theme Park) recently discovered.

The employee, who used to work rides until he was hired as a full time Mechanical Helper, claimed he was the victim of disability discrimination that forced his resignation.

But the employee’s claims never really take off and the court ultimately granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment.

The employee claimed that he suffered from mental retardation. At his deposition, he said he was a “slow learner” and has to “constantly go at a slower pace” to pick things up.  While he testified that he was diagnosed as having “slight mental retardation”, he did not have any medical records of this.

Is this enough to create a triable issue of whether he is “disabled” under the ADA?

No, said the court: “Self-serving testimony, without more, is insufficient to create a material issue of fact…”

Even if the court were to credit his testimony, the statements didn’t show that the plaintiff was substantially limited in his ability to perform a class or broad range of jobs, said the court.

Ah, but could the employee show that he was “regarded” as having a disability?  Here, taking the employee’s testimony at face value, he said his co-workers would “call him stupid” and ask him what was wrong with him.

But the court concluded that a reasonable jury could not find that calling someone “stupid” is not evidence that the speaker perceived that person to be substantially limited in any major life activity.

Thus, the court grants the employer’s motion for summary judgment.  The employee filed a notice of appeal earlier this week, so it will be interesting to see how the Second Circuit handles this matter.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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