Court Finds ADHD Not a Disability within the ADA
In a recent court ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals held that an employee’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was not a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This ruling has an interesting impact on other potential employment cases withi
Facts of the CaseIn the case of Weaving v. City of Hillsboro, Matthew Weaving worked for the Hillsboro Police Department (HPD) in Oregon from 2006 to 2009. HPD terminated Weaving's employment after some severe interpersonal problems between him and other HPD employees. Weaving argued that these problems resulted from his diagnosis of ADHD. After he was fired, Weaving filed a lawsuit against the HPD under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He contended that he was disabled under the Act because his ADHD substantially limited his ability to engage in two major life activities: working and interacting with others. He claimed that HPD had discharged him because of his disabilities in violation of the ADA. The jury at the trial court level found in favor of Weaving, stating that he was disabled and that the City of Hillsboro had discharged him because of his disability. The City of Hillsboro appealed the verdict to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Court of Appeals DecisionThe ADA forbids discrimination against an employee on the basis of disability, which is defined as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of the individual who claims the disability." The appellate court found that Weaving, as a police officer, did not show enough evidence that he was limited in his ability to work compared to "most people in the general population." In fact, the evidence presented showed that Weaving was a skilled police officer. The only evidence Weaving showed the court regarding ADHD's effects on his ability to work pertained to his interpersonal problems. Because of the lack of evidence that Weaving's ADHD affected his ability to work, coupled with the strong evidence of his skills as a police officer, the Ninth Circuit found that a jury could not reasonably have concluded that Weaving's ADHD substantially limited his ability to work. Weaving also argued that he is disabled because his ADHD substantially limits his ability to interact with others. However, the appellate court stated in a previous case that "mere trouble getting along with coworkers is not sufficient to show a substantial limitation." The evidence at trial showed that Weaving has experienced recurring interpersonal problems throughout his professional life at HPD and at other police departments. Those problems had significant consequences for Weaving's career as a police officer, most recently his termination at HPD. However, Weaving's interpersonal problems did not amount to a substantial impairment of his ability to interact with others within the meaning of the ADA. The court found that his ADHD may have limited his ability to get along with others, but that does not rise to the level of a substantial limitation of the ability to interact with others. As a result, the Court of Appeals found that no reasonable jury could have found Weaving disabled under the ADA. His ADHD did not substantially limit either his ability to work or to interact with others. Therefore, the ruling of the trial court was reversed.