The Ninth Circuit recently decided Weaving v. Hillsboro, involving a police officer with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The officer had severe interpersonal problems with co-workers and was terminated. He sued under the ADA, claiming the problems were due to his disability. The case proceeded to a jury trial, which ended in the officer’s favor to the tune of $770,000. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reversed. It held the officer did not qualify for ADA protection, noting that “a cantankerous person who has mere trouble getting along with coworkers is not disabled under the ADA.” The court’s analysis was that not every impairment is a “disability” under the ADA. In this case, the officer failed to provide evidence that his impairment was substantially limiting. A key factor in the court’s decision was the fact that while the officer suffered from interpersonal problems with peers and subordinates, he was somehow able to get along just fine with his superiors.
This case is significant in that it provides a rare exception to the oft-repeated mantra that almost all impairments are covered under the ADA Amendments Act. Still, if confronted with a potential ADA situation, check with counsel before taking an adverse action. More often than not, the impairment will be covered and the employer will have to consider potential reasonable accommodations.