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Mechanical engineer's disability lawsuit reinstated


A federal District Court failed to consider the 2008 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act in dismissing a disability lawsuit filed by a mechanical engineer who was denied a position because of a shoulder injury, says an appeals court, in reinstating the case.

Michael A. Cannon was offered a job as a field engineer at a Colorado mining site by Jacobs Field Services North America Inc., a construction company, in 2011, according to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in Michael A. Cannon v. Jacobs Field Services North America, Inc.

Mr. Cannon, a mechanical engineer with more than 20 years’ experience, had undergone unsuccessful surgery in 2010 to repair a torn rotator cuff that left him unable to raise his right arm above shoulder level, and limited his ability to push or pull with his right arm, according to Wednesday’s ruling.

After a medical exam, a doctor cleared Mr. Cannon for the position as long as he was offered certain accommodations, including no driving company vehicles, no lifting, pushing or pulling more than 10 pounds, and no working with his hands above shoulder level.

The Oak Ridge, Tennessee-based company, however, rescinded the job offer, and Mr. Cannon filed suit against the firm, charging disability discrimination.

In February 2015, the U.S. District Court in Houston granted JFS summary judgment dismissing the case, ruling that Mr. Cannon’s rotator cuff injury did not render him disabled under the ADA, and even if he were disabled, he was not qualified for the field engineer position.

The lower court did not take into account the lower standard for determining disability under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, said a unanimous three-judge panel in reinstating the case.

“Given that lifting and reaching are ‘major life activities,’ Cannon’s shoulder injury is a qualifying disability if it ‘substantially limits’ his ability to perform such tasks.

“There is certainly evidence to that effect,” said the ruling, which also held that summary judgment on the basis that Mr. Cannon was not qualified for the position was inappropriate. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

In 2014, an appeals court held a sufficiently severe temporary impairment may be considered a disabilityunder the ADA Amendments Act’s broadened definition of disability.