Walters, Amy v. Mayo Clinic Health Systems
ORDER that court will instruct jury on definition of "substantially limits" consistent with ADAAA and current version of 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j), except to exclude "most people in the general population" if either party objects. Signed by District Judge William M. Conley on 3/25/14. (krj)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
AMY J. WALTERS,
OPINION AND ORDER
MAYO CLINIC HEALTH SYSTEMEAU CLAIRE HOSPITAL, INC.,
In this opinion and order, the court addresses the parties’ dispute as to whether
the jury should be instructed on the relatively new definition of “substantially limited,”
in 29 C.F.R. §1630.2(j). Plaintiff submitted an additional brief in support of her jury
instructions on the definition of disability. (Dkt. #169.) Plaintiff points out that the
Seventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions were drafted in 2005, and thus pre-date the
2008 amendment to the ADA (“ADAAA”). Plaintiff proposes that the court use the
language from 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j) to define “substantially limits,” and directs the court
to Gogos v. AMS Mech. Sys., 737 F.3d 1170 (7th Cir. 2013), in which the court applied
this regulation, albeit a different part of the provision.
While the ADAAA was enacted in 2008, the EEOC regulation defining
“substantially limits” did not become effective until May 24, 2011, after the alleged
discrimination in this case. (Dkt. #186.) As such, defendant contends that “[t]he law as
it existed as the time of the alleged discrimination is properly reflected in the pattern
instruction.” (Id. at 2.) In support, defendant points to the Seventh Circuit’s decision in
Mojica v. Gannet Co., Inc., 7 F.3d 552, 559 (7th Cir. 1993), which overturned a jury
verdict because the district court instructed the jury on a version of Title VII that did not
exist when the alleged discrimination occurred.
Unlike in Mojica, however, the relevant statute, the ADA Amendments Act of
2008 (“ADAAA”), was enacted and became effective before any of the discrimination
alleged here. That amendment specifically provides:
The definition of “disability” in paragraph (1) shall be
construed in accordance with the following:
(A) The definition of disability in this chapter shall be
construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals under this
chapter, to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of
(B) The term “substantially limits” shall be interpreted
consistently with the findings and purposes of the ADA
Amendments Act of 2008.
42 U.S.C.A. § 12102.
Among the “findings in the ADAAA referenced in paragraph (1)(B) quoted above
was the following:
Congress finds that the current Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ADA regulations defining the term
“substantially limits” as “significantly restricted” are
inconsistent with congressional intent, by expressing too high
Pub. L. 110-325, § 2, Sept. 25, 2008, 122 Stat. 3553.
The ADAAA also references certain “purposes,” including:
(4) to reject the standards enunciated by the Supreme Court
in Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Williams,
534 U.S. 184 (2002), that the terms “substantially” and
“major” in the definition of disability under the ADA “need
to be interpreted strictly to create a demanding standard for
qualifying as disabled,” and that to be substantially limited in
performing a major life activity under the ADA “an individual
must have an impairment that prevents or severely restricts
the individual from doing activities that are of central
importance to most people's daily lives”;
(6) to express Congress' expectation that the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission will revise that
portion of its current regulations that defines the term
“substantially limits” as “significantly restricted” to be
consistent with this Act, including the amendments made by
While the EEOC’s formal definition of “substantially limits” in 29 C.F.R. §
1630.2 did not become effective until approximately one month after Walters’
termination, the ADAAA expressly altered the “substantially limits” definition consistent
with the subsequently-adopted EEOC regulation.
The one exception, perhaps, is the
language in 29 C.F.R. §1630.2(j), requiring a comparison between the ability of the
person claiming to be disabled and “most people in the general population.” To the
extent that this language arguably has no direct link to the ADAAA, the court will
remove this phrase from the jury instruction should either party object to its inclusion.
See EEOC v. Autozone, Inc., 630 F.3d 635, 641 n.3 (7th Cir. 2010) (explaining that the
ADAAA should not be applied retroactively).
Accordingly, the court will instruct the jury on the definition of “substantially
limits” consistent with the ADAAA and the current version of 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j),
except it will exclude the “most people in the general population” language should either
Entered this 25th day of March, 2014.
BY THE COURT:
WILLIAM M. CONLEY
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