Benign Brain Tumor

“Disability” under

ADA Amendments

             In Meinelt v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 24 AD 119 (S.D. Tex. 2011), the employer claimed it fired a manager for improperly adjusting workers’ hours. The plaintiff sued, alleging disability discrimination. P.F. Chang’s alleged that Meinelt’s benign brain tumor was not a disability. But a federal district court rejected the ADA argument, pointing to the 2008 amendments (“ADAAA”) with their broad definition of a “major life activity.”

             Prior to the amendments, “major life activity” was not defined. The ADAAA takes an extensive laundry list approach. It provides, in part, a “major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including, but not limited to … normal cell growth … [and] brain … functions.” 42 U.S.C. §12102(2)(B). Although some pre-ADAAA caselaw held that a benign brain tumor was not a disability, the Meinelt court held that the amended statute required the opposite result.

             Also, the restaurant had fired Meinelt three days after he disclosed the diagnosis of the tumor. This “temporal nexus” was another reason for denying the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

             This case demonstrates that the non-coverage defense, i.e., that the condition was not an ADA disability, was much weakened by the ADAAA.