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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Depression may not qualify as a disability


Depression may not qualify as a disability
Aldrup v Caldera, 274 F.3d 282

William A. Aldrup complained that he was depressed and this constituted a disability under ADA. The reason for his depression: he had suffered stress and anxiety because of his having to work with certain employees.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Aldrup's claims, finding that he was not disabled within the meaning of the ADA because although he was unable to work only with particular co-workers at one particular job, he could work with other individuals at another work site.

Aldrup was a firefighter at a military installation, the Camp Bullis Fire Station. Because of a staffing shortage at another installation, Aldrup was assigned to the Fort Sam Houston Station -- about 20 miles away from Bullis -- for one day. He refused to report to Sam Houston.

He was charge with insubordination and dismissed from his position. Earlier he had been subjected to “progressive discipline” for other acts of insubordination.*

Clearly, the failure of a subordinate to follow a direct order of a supervisor is a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for taking adverse employment action. Did Aldrup state a valid explanation of his insubordination by claiming that he suffered a disability involving a major life activity -- working?

The court decided that Aldrup had failed to offer evidence that he was substantially limited in the life activity of working and that he had failed to create a fact issue that his employer's proffered reason for his removal -- insubordination -- was pretextual.

Aldrup based his disability claim on his alleged depression resulting from “the stress and anxiety of having to work with certain employees at the [Houston Station].” This, said the court, was insufficient to demonstrate that Aldrup was disabled within the meaning of the ADA. His claim, “if supported by the record, would merely tend to show that he was unable to perform any job at one specific location, and is not evidence of Aldrup's general inability to perform a broad class of jobs.”

Aldrup also claimed that he was entitled to disobey his supervisor's order because it placed him in personal jeopardy. The court said that while a subordinate must obey an order first and complain later, there is an exception when obeying the order would place the subordinate in a clearly dangerous situation. The Circuit Court did not find any “clearly dangerous situation” present that would excuse Aldrup's misconduct in refusing to comply with his superior's directive.

The court's conclusion: based on the record, the decision to remove Aldrup was neither arbitrary nor capricious.

* In challenging the Merit Systems Protection Board's sustaining his dismissal, Aldrup alleged “mixed claims” -- i.e., claims based on discrimination as well as other grounds. The Circuit Court said that while it did not generally have jurisdiction to review the decisions of the Merit Systems Protection Board, it did have jurisdiction over this type of “mixed case,” citing Wiggins v US Postal Service, 653 F.2d 219.

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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