Third Circuit Employment Law 101: ADA Mixed-Motive Disparate Impact Claims

Look what just arrived in today’s mail. It’s a charge of discrimination from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Looks like Robert Rank-And-File — the guy Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware, Inc. fired from data entry — alleges that the company terminated him because he’s disabled.

I’ll show you after the jump.

Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware, Inc. insists it canned him because he typed too slow and he was always complaining about his sore wrists and carpal tunnel syndrome. (Maybe he didn’t get the hint when his manager told him to lose the skirt, “man up,” and type faster).

Hmmmm…. Now Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware, Inc. is in a bit of a pickle here. What does Robert have to do to win his case? What chance does the company have?

Surprise, surprise. It’s two years later and Robert has made it to trial. The record is closed and the judge is instructing this jury:

So how is Robert going to prevail on his discrimination claim? He must prove the following three elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

  1. His carpal tunnel syndrome is a “disability” with the meaning with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A disability is an impairment that interferes with a major life activity. ([Cite third circuit case]).
  2. He is a “qualified individual” able to perform the essential functions of his data entry job. (Robert presents evidence that, with a cushioned mouse pad, he can type 200 words per minute with zero errors).
  3. His carpal tunnel syndrome was a motivating factor in his employer’s decision to fire him. (Employer admits at deposition that Robert’s complaining about his “damn wrists” became intolerable).

Next time, spend the $5 and buy Robert the cushioned gel mouse pad.