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Employee Bullies, Are They Protected Under the ADA?
Authored By: Emily Sternberg on 12/2/2014

Employers and HR Professionals face “difficult” employees all the time.   We know who they are, they are those employees who are considered intimidating, demeaning, or even threatening to co-workers.   

The question is, can these employees, with an ADHD diagnosis, be considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act?   The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says no, overturning a jury verdict that awarded a former police officer more than $750,000 in damages, back pay, front pay, and attorney’s fees.   The court stated that although the ADA forbids discrimination against “a qualified individual on the basis of disability”, the evidence presented in the case showed that the plaintiff’s interpersonal problems with co-workers did not amount to a substantial impairment of his ability to interact with others within the meaning of the ADAA.   The court ruled that a cantankerous person who merely has trouble getting along with others is not disabled under the ADA.  The court’s opinion also stated that one who is able to communicate with others, though his communications may at times be offensive, is not substantially limited in his ability to interact with others within the meaning of the ADA.

The lesson in this case is that all employers must take all requests for disability seriously before making the determination that the employee or candidate is no longer “qualified” to perform the essential functions of the job.   Simply arguing that an employee has no disability may no longer be applicable under the ADAAA interpretation.   As always, be sure to consult with a labor law attorney before taking adverse actions against an employee who has requested accommodation under the ADAAA.

Source:  Weaving v. City of Hillsboro, No 12-35726 (9th Circuit Court of Appeals 8/15/2014)

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