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Remember, ADA disability requires substantial impairment of major life activity

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Some employees think that if they have a learning disability, they are automatically disabled and entitled to an accommodation under the ADA. That’s not necessarily so.

Such employees still have to prove that their specific learning disability substantially impairs a major life function, such as learning. In one recent case, the fact that the employee had managed to learn quite a few things despite dyslexia meant he wasn’t disabled under the ADA.

Recent case: Robert Dixon worked for McArthur Dairy as a driver until it became obvious he was not completing his paperwork in a timely or accurate fashion. He was then moved to a job that didn’t require so much paperwork.

Dixon sued, alleging discrimination based on having dyslexia. He also claimed to have a very low IQ, impairing his ability to learn.

But Dixon also held a commercial driving certificate and had additional endorsements in hazmat transportation and other specialized certificates. The court therefore concluded that Dixon was not substantially limited in the ability to learn—the major life activity he claimed his disability interfered with. Obviously, with study and preparation, he was able to learn just fine. The court tossed out the case. (Robert Dixon v. McArthur Dairies, No. 09-21744, ND FL, 2010)

Final note: Ironically, Dixon represented himself in court. Somehow he managed to file the lawsuit and clearly argue his case despite his self-proclaimed low intelligence and dyslexia. That may have hurt his case.

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