Disability Discrimination Claim Dismissed; Restriction on “Lifting” Did Not “Substantially” Limit a “Major” Life Activity

The Second Circuit last week in Troeger v. Ellenville Cent. School District (Summary Order) affirmed a trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s disability discrimination lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Plaintiff claimed that his employer failed to accommodate his “disability” – here, a back injury. The ADA defines a “disability”, in pertinent part, as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”.  (The New York State and City Human Rights Laws define “disability” more broadly.)

The court held that plaintiff failed to establish that he had a “disability” as a matter of law:

When Troeger returned to work in late 2007, his physician explained that he had recovered such that he “has no significant restrictions on driving, walking, standing, sitting, or climbing stairs,” but Troeger’s lifting restriction of 20 pounds remained in effect. … Based in part on this evidence, the District Court correctly concluded that Troeger has not shown a genuine issue of fact regarding a substantial limitation of a major life activity.  … As the District Court explained, Troeger was capable of both sitting and working. … And although lifting light objects may be a major life activity …, an individual is not “disabled” merely because he cannot lift heavier objects weighing, for instance, around twenty pounds.

(Emphasis in original.)

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