Are Flounder from Animal House and Left Ear from The Italian Job “disabled”?

– “Mr. Dorfman?
– “Hello!”
– “0.2… Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

* * *

– “That’s Left Ear. Demolition and explosives. When he was ten, he put one too many M-80s in the toilet bowl. Lost the hearing in his right ear. He’s been blowing stuff up ever since.”

* * *

Good start to a blog post, amirite? Now, allow me to dork this up with two employment-law questions:

  1. If Flounder were Dean Wormer’s employee (rather than just a student at Faber College), would Wormer’s calling him “stupid” mean that Faber regarded Flounder as “disabled” under the Americans with Disabilities Act?
  2. Since Left Ear is deaf in one ear, would he qualify as “disabled” under the ADA should he return from his Spanish villa and seek gainful employment in the USA?

Tough questions. But here, at the ole Handbook, when the going gets tough…[wait for it]…The tough get goin’! Who’s with me?

Let’s do it!!!! (after the jump…)

* * *

The inspiration for this post came from a high-speed chase culminating in a tragic kiln accident my blogging buddies, Jon Hyman and Dan Schwartz.

In this post yesterday at the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, Jon discussed a recent decision from a Pennsylvania federal court, in which it addressed a plaintiff’s ADA claim that her former employer laid her off because she was deaf in one ear. The plaintiff claimed that deafness in one ear is a disability. As Jon writes, the Court wasn’t buying:

Ms. Mengel only provided evidence of hearing loss in one ear rather than bilateral deafness…. Ms. Mengel failed to present evidence that her hearing loss in one ear substantially limited her hearing. She testified that her deafness in her left ear was not a distraction, and she did not mention any specific instances where her hearing loss caused a problem other than that she “didn’t hear some things.”

So, sorry Left Ear, you lose too. Stick to explosives and stealing gold bars.

As for Flounder, according to this post from Dan yesterday at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, his chances at prevailing in an ADA lawsuit wouldn’t be any better. That’s because when Dean Wormer calls Flounder “stupid,” it doesn’t mean that Flounder is “regarded as” disabled by Faber College:

Here, taking the employee’s testimony at face value, he said his co-workers would “call him stupid” and ask him what was wrong with him.

But the court concluded that a reasonable jury could not find that calling someone “stupid” is not evidence that the speaker perceived that person to be substantially limited in any major life activity.

Of course, if Mr. Dorfman suffers from alcoholism, or is now morbidly obese, he could be “disabled” if he is otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of his job. However, his 0.2 GPA would suggest he can’t. Then again, he did go on to become Executive Director, Encounter Groups of Cleveland, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio. And if Homer Simpson can claim disability and prevail…

And a bonus question: Could calling Flounder fat, trigger a claim under Title VII? Nope, according to this recent decision from a Florida federal court. Not even if Dean Wormer did this or this or this. That’s because obese individuals are not a protected class under Title VII. Nowhere in Title VII is weight mentioned as a protected characteristic.

Left Ear and Flounder: incredible movie characters; horrible plaintiffs.

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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