A 90s hip hop lesson on the Americans with Disabilities Act? 🎵🎧🎙
Back in the mid-90s, amidst a brewing East Coast/West Coast rap battle, a diminutive MC named Skee Lo became a one-hit-wonder with a lighthearted track called “I Wish.” In that track, the diminutive Mr. Lo wishes he was a little bit taller. Indeed, Mr. Lo raps that if only he were 6′ 9″, he could get with Leoshi (“cause she don’t know me but yo; she’s really fine”) and a “six-four Impala.”
Let’s assume that Mr. Lo’s day job — he was a one-hit-wonder after all — required him to operate a six-four Impala safely. Perhaps, he needed a phone book to see over the steering wheel or wood blocks to reach the gas and brake pedals.
(Probably not. According to IMDB, Skee Lo is 5’8. But, let’s pretend he’s much shorter.)
Is being too short — not this Too $hort — considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act? According to this recent Eleventh Circuit decision, it is probably not. I’ll explain why:
Under the ADA, individuals have a “disability” if they have:
- a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- a record of such an impairment, or
- are regarded as having such an impairment.
Viewing this under the first prong, presumably, Mr. Lo would claim that his small frame substantially limits activities of daily living such as driving and reaching. But is being short an “impairment”?
The ADA does not define “impairment.” However, the EEOC’s ADA regulations focus on “any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems . . . .” However, the EEOC later adds that impairment does “not include physical characteristics such as eye color, hair color, left-handedness, or height, weight, or muscle tone that are within ‘normal’ range and are not the result of a physiological disorder.”
So, on its own, being short would not be a disability without an underlying physiological disorder. We often see this in morbid obesity cases where the plaintiff claims that an underlying disability caused the weight gain.
Even in a “regarded as” claim, Mr. Lo would still have to allege that someone regarded him as having a physiological disorder. Plus, in a regarded-as claim, there is no duty to accommodate.
And I’ve listened to “I Wish” enough to know that Skee Lo does not claim to have an underlying physiological disorder, nor does anyone view him as having one. He’s just salty that he’s not a baller and is still without the elusive “rabbit in a hat with a bat.”
But, he did reach No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.