The ADA lesson from this case goes beyond limitations related to golf and sex.
The day after the plaintiff told his employer that he had scheduled his back surgery, the employer terminated him. The plaintiff sued, claiming that his termination violated the ADA. Based in part on the plaintiff’s deposition testimony that “his back problems only affected his ability to play golf and have sex,” the district court held that plaintiff had not established that he had a “disability” or was “regarded as” having a disability and granted summary judgment to the employer on the ADA claim.
Reversing that decision, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the district court erred by relying on the plaintiff’s testimony about his golf and sex limitations because it was “unclear” whether this testimony referred to the plaintiff’s limitations before his operation or after his operation/termination. Mazzeo v. Color Resolutions Int’l, LLC (11th Cir. March 31, 2014). To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA, “a plaintiff must show that, at the time of the adverse employment action, he had a disability…,” the court said (emphasis added). “The questions that were posed to [the plaintiff] did not contain a specific time frame,” the court noted.
Unlike the deposition testimony, the ADA lesson here is clear: when evaluating the limitations caused by a plaintiff’s physical or mental impairment, the focus must be on the nature and extent of the limitations at the time of the adverse employment action.