Inability to Work for Specific Supervisor ≠ Disability


Reiterating the long-standing principle under the Americans with Disabilities Act that an employee must be unable to work a broad class or range of jobs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found the employee, who could not work only for his supervisor, not to be disabled within the meaning of the ADA.

In Woolf v. Strada, an employee attributed his worsening migraines, which increased his risk for heart attack or stroke, to work-related stress that would be ameliorated by a transfer or reassignment to another supervisor. Following a six-month period during which he took paid intermittent leave, he was terminated for poor performance. He sued, arguing that the employer had failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation of a transfer or a new supervisor.

Noting the well-established understanding that “an employee’s inability to perform a single, particular job does not constitute a substantial limitation in the major life activity of working,” the Second Circuit found that the employee was not disabled because he could still perform a broad range or class of jobs. Consequently, he was not entitled to the protections of the ADA.

This decision again confirms that employees who attribute stress-related health conditions to working for a particular supervisor are not entitled to a change in supervisors. We note, however, that a change in supervisory methods may be required as an accommodation, as discussed in our blog post, A New Boss Is Not a Reasonable Accommodation.