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Federal Court Holds That Employee With Renal Cancer In Remission Is Covered Under The ADA

Federal Court Holds That Employee With Renal Cancer In Remission Is Covered Under The ADA

Michael Norton worked for Defendant ALC in May 2008. The company operated 200 facilities in twenty states involving assisted living services to the elderly. Plaintiff worked at the Sulphur Springs, Texas location as a “Residence Sales Manager.”

Norton was diagnosed with renal cancer in April 2009. He went on medical leave and underwent surgery on May 22, 2009. He returned to work July 1, 2009. One month later on August 1, 2009, ALC fired Norton allegedly because of poor job performance. Norton challenged the firing and alleged that he was let go because he had taken medical leave and because he suffered from cancer.

This case focused on the recent Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. That law became effective January 1, 2009. ALC filed a motion for summary judgment contending that Norton did not have any actual disability because his cancer was in remission and he had no disabling effects from it at the time he was fired. The court reviewed the ADAAA and concluded that renal cancer, when active, substantially limits the “major life activity” of “normal cell growth.” The court held that whether his condition had been in remission was of no consequence.

The federal court said:

The court’s conclusion that Norton’s renal cancer is capable of qualifying as a disability under the ADA is bolstered by the EEOC’s interpretation and implementation of the ADAAA. The EEOC’s final regulations implementing the amendments provide a list of impairments that, because they substantially limit a major life activity, will ‘in virtually all cases, result in a determination of coverage under the [actual disability prong.]’ 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j)(3)(ii) (effective May 24, 2011). One of the impairments listed is ‘cancer’ because it ‘substantially limits [the major life activity] of normal cell growth.’ Id. at 1630.2(j)(3)(iii).

The court also rejected ALC’s attempt to distinguish plaintiff’s cancer because it was not Stage III cancer. The Court found no support for such a distinction in the ADA.

The case can be found at Norton v. Assisted Living Concepts, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51510 (E. D. Texas 2011).

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