Is a back injury a disability that protects employees under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) or its amendments (ADAAA)?
The Eleventh Circuit recently addressed this issue in the case of Mazzeo v. Color Resolutions Int’l, LLC, 746 F.3d 1264 (11th Cir. 2014). Mr. Mazzeo was a sales representative who was terminated shortly after he asked for time off for surgery to repair a herniated disc. Citing to provisions in the amendments in the Americans with Disability Act (ADAAA) and the EEOC’s regulations which say that the definition of “disability” is to be construed broadly and that conditions that are episodic or in remission may be disabilities if they are substantially limiting when active, the court concluded that evidence from the employee’s doctor that the herniated disc impacted employee’s ability to walk, bend, sleep, and lift more than ten pounds and that the condition was “substantial . . . and permanent” was sufficient to create an genuine issue as to whether employee had a disability.
What is interesting is that the employee himself seemed to limit his limitations but the Court in following the statute stated that the broad definition of disability meant that the employee could not be discriminated against because of his back injury.