Despite WC disability, worker loses two discrimination claims
Czapinski v. Iron City Industrial Cleaning Corp. d/b/a Iron City Uniform Rental, No. 09-2002 (3d Cir. 12/08/09, unpublished).
In an unpublished decision, the 3d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for an industrial cleaning company in a former employee's Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and state law suit.
What it means: An employee who claims to be disabled by a work-related injury must be able to show a substantial limitation in a major life activity in order to be covered by the ADA. Moreover, if the employee argues during a workers' compensation hearing that he is completely unable to perform his normal job, he cannot later assert that he is a qualified individual in an age discrimination claim.
Summary: An employee for an industrial cleaning company whose job involved extensive heavy lifting was injured on the job. He applied for workers' compensation benefits. The employee's treating doctor gave him medical restrictions on lifting and performing truck duties. Because of his restrictions, the company removed him from his job. The employee sued under the ADA, state law, and the ADEA. The 3d Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the company. The court held that the employee did not show that he was disabled under the ADA and state law. The court noted that the employee's restrictions on lifting were not so severe that they would be considered substantial limitations under the law. They were not that different from the lifting constraints that exist in most members of the general population. Moreover, the employee did not demonstrate that he was substantially limited in working a range of jobs that would be available to someone with his skills, education and training, the court said.
Additionally, the employee's ADEA claims failed. During his workers' compensation hearing, he testified that he was unable to perform the duties of his job due to his injury and was no longer able to work in his normal occupation. Therefore he could not show that he was "otherwise qualified" for his job as required by the ADEA. Because he was not qualified and the company had non-age related reasons for discharging him, the employee was precluded from moving forward with his age discrimination claims, the court concluded.
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February 18, 2010
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