On April 6, 2017, the 7th Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of an employer in a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in which the plaintiff, a hotel desk clerk, alleged that his former employer failed to accommodate his alleged disability, discriminated against him on account of his alleged disability, and fired him in retaliation for complaining about related work conditions. Hirmiz v. New Harrison Hotel Corp., d/b/a Travelodge Hotel Chicago, No. 16-3915 (7th Cir. 4/6/2017). The employer claimed that it fired him after he was caught on video sleeping in the hotel lobby while a fight broke out among several hotel guests. The district court granted summary judgment on the grounds that he had failed to present evidence that he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA, that he had not engaged in any protected activity before his termination, and that the complaint he’d filed with OSHA had not played any role in his employment termination.
To proceed with a claim under the ADA, a plaintiff is required to initially establish either: (1) the existence of a disability–an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; (2) a record of such an impairment; or (3) that he or she was regarded as having an impairment by his or her employer. Otherwise, there is no valid claim. The ADA protects an employee who is subjected to retaliation because he or she requested a reasonable accommodation or complained about discrimination on account of a disability. In this case, the plaintiff did not request an accommodation or file his charge of discrimination with the EEOC until after he was fired. He also failed to establish any causal connection between his OSHA complaint and his termination. Additionally, the employer provided valid, non-discriminatory, non-retaliatory reasons for his discharge, unrelated to his alleged disability, such as sleeping on the job.