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7th Circuit rules against fired animal shelter worker

October 4, 2012

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed summary judgment for the city of Jeffersonville after finding that a terminated employee’s lawsuit claiming her firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act can’t proceed because the woman doesn’t qualify as “disabled” under the ADA.

Angelina Povey injured her wrist while working as an attendant at the city’s animal shelter. This injury caused her job duties to be restricted and placed more requirements on the other employees to work more weekends. A co-worker began harassing Povey because of the effect of her injury on his schedule. She reported the co-worker’s comments, and the two were assigned to duties away from each other while working.

Shortly after Povey filed a complaint against the co-worker, the city learned that Povey’s permanent physical restrictions would leave her unable to perform any of the essential functions of an adoption kennel attendant. Her employment was then terminated.

She filed her lawsuit alleging discrimination under the ADA and that she was fired in retaliation for her prior complaints of discrimination and harassment. U.S. Judge Richard Young granted summary judgment for the city, finding Povey failed to demonstrate she was a qualified individual under the ADA. She didn’t provide evidence that her wrist injury impaired her from completing daily tasks; her perceived impairment foreclosed her from accepting a broad range or class of jobs; she was perceived unable to perform manual tasks; she was a qualified individual as defined under the ADA; and she was terminated in retaliation for exercising her rights under the ADA.

Povey argued on appeal that the city regarded her as having a substantial impairment that limited her abilities in the major life activity of working, pointing to comments from her supervisors. One supervisor said that  Povey wasn’t able to use her right hand, and another believed Povey’s work restrictions prevented her from performing her job and that the city didn’t have a job for someone with a permanent disability.

In Angelina Povey v. City of Jeffersonville, Indiana, 11-1896, the 7th Circuit rejected her claims, finding none of the statements to be so sweeping as to exclude Povey from a broad class of jobs. Those statements don’t constitute facts from which a jury could reasonably conclude that Jeffersonville regarded Povey as disabled under the ADA, wrote Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, who is sitting by designation.

Povey is not protected by the ADA provisions, and her retaliation claim under the ADA also fails.
 

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