10.17.2005

Eleventh Circuit Holds that "Regarded-As" Disabled Individuals Entitled to Reasonable Accommodation

The Eleventh Circuit in D'Angelo v. ConAgra Foods, Inc., 422 F.3d 1220 (11th Cir. Aug. 30, 2005) has weighed in on a matter that has split the federal circuits thus far:

Whether the ADA's reasonable accommodation requirement applies to the regarded-as category of disabled individuals is an issue of first impression in this Circuit and a question on which our sister Circuits are split. The district court based its holding that it does not on the decisions of the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits. See Kaplan v. N. Las Vegas, 323 F.3d 1226, 1233 (9th Cir.2003); Weber v. Strippit, Inc., 186 F.3d 907, 916-17 (8th Cir.1999); Workman v. Frito-Lay, Inc., 165 F.3d 460, 467 (6th Cir.1999); Newberry v. E. Tex. State Univ., 161 F.3d 276, 280 (5th Cir.1998). The Third Circuit has parted ways with these courts, holding that under the plain language of the ADA, employers are obliged to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals falling within any of the ADA's definitions of disabled, including those "regarded as" being disabled. Williams v. Phila. Hous. Auth. Police Dep't, 380 F.3d 751, 772-76 (3d Cir.2004). The First Circuit has also addressed the issue but only indirectly, assuming without expressly holding that the ADA requires reasonable accommodations for employees regarded as disabled. Katz v. City Metal Co., 87 F.3d 26, 32-34 (1st Cir.1996). Because a review of the plain language of the ADA yields no statutory basis for distinguishing among individuals who are disabled in the actual-impairment sense and those who are disabled only in the regarded-as sense, we join the Third Circuit in holding that regarded-as disabled individuals also are entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA.

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