Diabetic Forklift Driver Denied Claim Under ADA
An employer did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it transferred a diabetic forklift driver to a new position, held the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (KY, MI, OH, TN).
Lucille Mohr worked for the Hoover Company for over 22 years. In 1995, she was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and informed Hoover’s medical director, Dr. Nicoletti, of her condition at that time. Since 1998, she worked as a warehouse “high rider,” which required her to operate a forklift at least 25 feet high to store and retrieve supplies. In 2000, the company became concerned about the absenteeism of another diabetic employee and began a review of its policy allowing diabetic employees to operate forklifts. The investigation revealed that Mohr and two other forklift operators, Larry Coyne and Larry Palmer, were diabetic. The company reviewed the employees’ medical records and found that Mohr had experienced recurring episodes related to her blood sugar levels, including fainting, disorientation, and falling asleep standing up. Dr. Nicoletti recommended that Coyne be permitted to continue operating a forklift, but that Mohr and Palmer be restricted from operating a forklift and “dangerous machinery.” Hoover invited Mohr to bid on 50 other positions that paid at least as much as the high rider position. She selected one of the positions and was transferred to it.
Mohr sued Hoover claiming that the transfer violated the ADA, among other statutes. Mohr did not allege that she was disabled, as defined by the ADA, but that Hoover unlawfully regarded her as disabled. To prove this, she had to show that Hoover mistakenly believed that Mohr’s “actual, nonlimiting impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The court determined that the “major life activity” that Mohr’s claim was based on must have been the activity of working. According to regulations under the ADA, to be substantially limited in the activity of working entails being “significantly restricted in the ability to perform either a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes.” Mohr argued that Hoover regarded her as disqualified from all jobs involving the operation of machinery. The court disagreed, finding nothing in the record to support such a “sweeping claim.” Dr. Nicoletti’s restriction barred Mohr only from using “dangerous machinery.” The fact that Hoover allowed Mohr to bid on 50 different jobs shows that it did not regard her as precluded from performing either a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes. Accordingly, Mohr failed to establish a prima facie case under the ADA and her claim should be dismissed.
Mohr v. Hoover Co., Case. No. 02-4107 (6th Cir., 5/14/04).
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