With the expansion of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (ADAAA), courts are finding that many more medical conditions are covered by the ADA. In Hoffman v. Palace Entertainment, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40422 (E.D. Pa.March 25, 2014)(Gardner, J.), the court found that episodic seizures can be an ADA qualifying disability.
In Hoffman, the Plaintiff was employed in a seasonal, part-time position as a Water Area Attendant at an amusement park and family entertainment facility. During the 2010 season, the employee had absences from work which though supported by doctor’s notes became an issue of concern for the employer. The employee was assessed “points” for her absences and was given a notice informing her that she could face discipline up to, and including, termination if her attendance did not improve. The employee was not terminated and continued to work through the conclusion of the 2010 season. The employee was informed that she was not being invited back for the 2011 season because of issues with her attendance. Nonetheless, the employee was advised that if she was interested, she could apply for employment again and she then applied for employment as a Security Officer. During the interview, the employee further explained that she suffered a miscarriage of twins which caused some seizure activity and that she is required to take prescription medication and seek medical treatment if an episode occurs. The employee described the seizures as “petit ma”, which are seizures involving a brief, sudden lapse of consciousness which may appear mild but can be dangerous if not controlled with anti-seizure medications.
The employee alleged disability discrimination in violation of the ADA and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) arising from both the decision at the end of the 2010 season not to invite the employee to continue in her position as a Water Area Attendant for the 2011 season, which effectively terminated plaintiff’s employment; and the decision to rescind the offer of a Security Officer position after she applied, and interviewed, for that position during the 2011 season.
To establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination, a plaintiff employee must plead sufficient facts to raise a plausible inference that: (1) the employee is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) the employee is otherwise qualified for the job with or without a reasonable accommodation; and (3) the employee was subjected to an adverse employment action as a result of discrimination. An individual is disabled under the ADA if the individual actually has a record of having, or is regarded as having, a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual. In defining disability under the ADA, major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. A major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
In Hoffman, the court found that the employee pled facts sufficient to support a plausible inference that her seizure disorder substantially limited her ability to work, by requiring her to take unscheduled absences for medical treatment and because the employee alleged that she submitted doctor’s notes for her absences during 2010 season which allegedly were seizure-related and she discussed her seizure condition during the January 2011 interview for the Security Officer position. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff employee could proceed with her disability discrimination claims.
In Hoffman, the employee also alleged that the employer rescinded the offer for the 2011 Security Officer position based upon a 2002 arrest that came up in a background check, alleging a violation of the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act. The Court held that the Criminal History Record Information Act was potentially violated because whenever an employer receives criminal history record information pursuant to a background check and the employer uses the criminal history record information to rescind its offer of a Security Officer position, the law may be violated.
For more information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, Disability Discrimination, the Pennsylvania Criminal History Record Information Act and Abramson Employment Law, see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-1126511.htm, http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-2122109.html