Judge Montalvo issued a decision for the Western District of Texas regarding the Americans with Disabilities act. In Molina v. DSI Renal Inc., 2012 WL 29348 (W.D.Tex. 1/4/12) the court deneid the employer’s motion for summary judgment. The case was filed under the Texas Commission on Human Rights act, but the court interpreted based on the ADA Amendments Act. Ms. Molina had suffered from back problems for years. Her employer, however, suddenly decided it could no longer accommodate her. The employer would not honor her lifting restrictions, saying they would no longer allow anyone to work unless they were fully released by their doctor. On summary judgment, the employer argued that her back impairment was not a disability.
But, the judge correctly stated that under the ADA amendments, to determine whether someone is "substantially limited," he must look not to the outcomes that the person can achieve. Since, an impairment need not restrict or significantly restrict the individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered "substantially limited." Instead, as the EEOC guidance points out, the court should "compare the condition under which the individual performs the major life activity" or "the manner in which the individual performs the major life activity" as compared to the general population. This comparison, said the court, could include the pain with which the individual performs the major life activity.
As the court noted, the employee learned to work through her pain. She was able to perform many of the same tasks after her back injury as she did before the injury. The court noted that she was without pain mostly because she took pain medication. She still suffered from a disability, concluded the court.
Under the old ADA, Ms. Molina would have lost with this evidence. It is the ADAAA’s requirement that a judge look at her disability without the benefit of medication that made a substantial difference in her outcome. The court found that a 20 lb lifting restriction was a substantial limitation on a major life activity of lifting. He rejected pre-ADAAA decisions which had specifically found that a 20 lb lifting restriction was not a substantial limitation. See additional comments at Disability Blog.