Not everyone who has a learning disability or even mild retardation is disabled. Under the ADA, every disability is measured by the individual’s condition and whether or not the condition he claims is disabling substantially impairs a major life function.
Thus, someone with minor intellectual deficits may not be disabled under the ADA.
Recent case: Corey Butler worked as a custodian for the Bloomington Public Schools for more than 13 years. Butler had been diagnosed as mildly mentally retarded and has trouble learning complex things.
His career with the school district was never easy. Although Butler believed he did a great job, his personnel file was full of disciplinary warnings. Plus, he sometimes didn’t follow procedures for calling in sick. He was often written up for sleeping on the job and failing to properly clean bathrooms and water fountains. The district retrained him several times on basic sanitation.
The last straw came when a security camera caught Butler taking just three minutes to clean an entire bathroom. The footage showed him using the wrong equipment and using the same towel to clean toilets and then water fountains. The school district terminated him for.
Butler sued, claiming he had been terminated because of his mental retardation.
But the court concluded he wasn’t impaired enough to be disabled. His vocational counselor couldn’t point to any basic skills he couldn’t pick up. The court also said that even if Butler were disabled, he clearly wasn’t qualified for the job, given what was seen on the video. (Butler v. Bloomington Public Schools, No. 08-5196, DC MN, 2010)
Final note: The school district clearly cut Butler plenty of slack over the years and gave him many chances to improve.