Employment-Fourth Circuit Rules That Inability To Work Overtime Is Not A Disability Under The ADA

In Boitnott v. Corning Incorporated, No. 10-1769 (4th Cir. 2012), the plaintiff, Michael R. Boitnott (“Boitnott”), filed suit against his employer, Corning Incorporated (“Corning”), under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). Boitnott asserted that his inability to work more than eight hours per day and rotate day/night shifts as a result of physical impairments rendered him disabled under the ADA. He further asserted that Corning had violated the ADA by failing to provide him a “reasonable accommodation” for his disability. Corning responded that, since Boitnott was physically able to work a normal forty hour work week and had not demonstrated that his impairments significantly restricted the class of jobs or a broad range of jobs available to him, he could not establish that he had a “substantial” limitation upon which to base a claim of disability under the ADA. The District Court granted summary judgment to Corning.

In analyzing the case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) said that the ADA prohibits any covered employer from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability. For this purpose, a “qualified individual with a disability” is an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position. Further a “disability” is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual. When, as here, the supposed major life activity is the ability to work, a plaintiff must show-under the ADA regulations (specifically those at 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(3))- that the impairment significantly restricted his ability to perform either a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes as compared to the average person having comparable training, skills and abilities, and the inability to perform a single, particular job does not constitute a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working.

The Court said that a number of other circuits have concluded that, under the ADA an employee is not substantially limited in one or more major life activities, if the employee is capable of working a normal forty hour work week but is not able to work overtime because of a physical or mental impairment. They have further concluded that -in their particular cases-the inability to work overtime does not significantly restrict an employee’s ability to perform a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes. In this case, Boitnott cannot resume work at Corning because he cannot work overtime. The Court decided to join the other Circuits, and held that an inability to work overtime does not constitute a substantial limitation on a major life activity under the ADA.

The Court then reviewed the record to determine if there was evidence demonstrating that Boitnott’s inability to work overtime significantly restricted his ability to perform either a class of jobs or a broad range of jobs in various classes as compared to the average person having comparable training, skills and abilities. This inquiry acknowledges that Boitnott’s particular impairments and/or the labor market in his area could, under certain circumstances, make his inability to work overtime a substantial restriction for this purpose. However, the Court found no evidence of any such restriction. Based on its holding and this finding, the Court upheld the district court’s summary judgment.