Law School Case Brief
McAlindin v. Cty. of San Diego - 192 F.3d 1226 (9th Cir. 1999)
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit holds that, in order to be substantially limited in the major life activity of interacting with others pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 12101 et seq., a plaintiff must show that his relations with others were characterized on a regular basis by severe problems, for example, consistently high levels of hostility, social withdrawal, or failure to communicate when necessary.
Plaintiff Michael McAlindin began working for defendant County of San Diego in its Housing and Community Development Department as a systems analyst in Sept. 1983. Several doctors concluded that McAlindin suffered from anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and somatoform disorders. He received treatment, including psychotherapy and a number of medications, such as Xanax, Buspar, and Paxil. McAlindin received a "provisional promotion" in early 1989, which brought new, very stressful duties. In May 1992, McAlindin again took leave for stress-related disability. During McAlindin's leave, he repeatedly requested through his attorney a transfer to a different job as a "reasonable accommodation" required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 12101, et seq. (ADA). McAlindin explained that several of his doctors had advised that he not return to his previous work setting because the negative associations there would impede his recovery. The County responded by offering to place his name on the transfer list but made it clear that it would not make any special efforts to ensure a transfer. In addition, the County said that it preferred to explore ways of accommodating McAlindin in his present position. McAlindin filed a lawsuit in federal district court against the County and his supervisors for disability discrimination in violation of the ADA and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code § 12940 et seq., and for age discrimination and retaliation under FEHA. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the County, holding that McAlindin lacked a "disability" within the meaning of the ADA.
Did McAlindin lack a disability within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The appellate court noted that under the ADA, discrimination against a "qualified individual with a disability," was prohibited. "Disability" was defined in part as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual." The court found that genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment existed regarding the ADA claim, because, as relevant to coverage under the ADA, McAlindin alleged that his impairment substantially limited what the court found to be the major life activities of engaging in sexual relations and sleeping.
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