Man missed deadline to file disability discrimination lawsuit by about 40 years. FORTY!!!


His claims were so old that they predate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Let’s see how his ADA lawsuit turned out.

(Spoiler alert: Not well).

I’d been meaning to blog about this Sixth Circuit decision for a while. Here are the relevant facts:

  • In 1980, the plaintiff suffered permanent nerve and ligament damage to his finger at work. After an extended absence, he returned to work about a year later, only to get fired about three weeks after that. Then, he started collecting workers’ compensation benefits.
  • For at least the last ten years, a company representative visited the plaintiff twice per year to verify his eligibility for these benefits. The plaintiff requested pension credits on each visit, which the company refused to provide.
  • In 2018, the plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and Michigan alleging disability discrimination. The EEOC eventually closed the plaintiff’s file and issued a right-to-sue notice.

The plaintiff then sued in federal court for disability and race discrimination. I’m only going to focus here on the former and just the federal ADA claim. Specifically, he claimed that his termination and the refusal to award pension credits violated the ADA.

Here’s the problem.

President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990. The ADA, which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability, became effective on July 26, 1992. The plaintiff here complained about discriminatory acts that occurred in 1981.

The ADA wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye then. And you can’t violate a law that doesn’t exist.

(Thankfully, for my sake, New Jersey hasn’t banned feeding kids Play-Doh for breakfast when you don’t have time to get to the market the night before because you watched the 76ers game instead. But don’t worry, I let the kids add rainbow sprinkles and caramel sauce. #dadoftheyear)

Getting back to the ADA lawsuit, what about the company’s continuing failure to pay him all benefits? Perhaps each missed annual payment restarts the clock for the statute of limitations.

Except, it doesn’t.

Assuming that each paycheck is discriminatory, those recent acts cannot revive the related but time-barred termination or denial of pension credits.

Can a 40-year-old claim ever have legs? Theoretically, a hostile work environment claim, a series of separate acts that comprise one unlawful employment practice, could date back many years. But, a single, discrete, 40-year-old adverse employment action like the one here has no value other than as a blog post.

So, thanks, plaintiff!

P.S. – No kids were harmed by Play-Doh consumption. It says non-toxic right there on the container. And they didn’t actually eat Play-Doh anyway, lest anyone think I was serious. Although who among us hasn’t tried a little Play-Doh in their day.

Ok, I’m done now.

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