Inability to Work Overtime Not a Disability

Employee could not prevail under Americans with Disabilities Act when the job required overtime work.

A variety of serious medical problems afflicted Michael R. Boitnott, a maintenance engineer for Corning Incorporated. According to a recent decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, he had several leaves and periods of absence from his job during 2002 through early 2004. In February 2004, Mr. Boitnott told Corning he could return to work but his physician’s statement limited him to working eight hours a day. Previously, under Corning’s usual work schedule, he had worked rotating 12-hour shifts and alternated two weeks of day shifts with two weeks of night shifts. Corning informed Boitnott that his inability to work overtime was a problem in giving him a job. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled persons who can perform a job with or without “reasonable accommodation” by the employer. Since Boitnott’s physician had declared him capable of working a normal eight-hour day and 40-hour week, Corning believed he was not “disabled” under the ADA. Boitnott disagreed, did not return to his 12-hour shifts, and charged Corning before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with not providing reasonable accommodation since he started trying to return to work. 

After termination of his disability benefits, additional medical reports, more efforts to return to work, and partial lifting of his overtime restrictions, Boitnott returned to work at Corning in September 2005. In the meantime the EEOC found reasonable cause to believe Corning had violated Boitnott’s rights. However, a federal district court decided in favor of Corning, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  

According to the appeals court, Boitnott could not claim discrimination under the ADA because he was not “disabled.” Being disabled under the ADA involves having a substantial limitation on a “major life activity.” If an employee is able to work a normal 40-hour week, he is not “disabled” just because he cannot work overtime. According to the appeals court, all federal circuit courts that have considered this issue are in agreement that an employee is not substantially limited if he can handle a 40-hour week but not overtime. 

Legal brief. Appeal from summary judgment in favor of employer.Plaintiff asserted physical inability to work overtime rendered him disabled under Americans with Disabilities Act and that defendant violated ADA by failing to provide reasonable accommodation. Held, summary judgment affirmed. Mere inability to work overtime is not substantial limitation on major life activity such as would render employee disabled.

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