Driving as a 'Major Life Activity' Rejected
Winsley sued the county in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging the county had discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court dismissed Winsley’s claims on summary judgment. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit agreed with the district court’s decision that Winsley had no ADA-protected disability because she was not substantially limited in a major life activity.
The 7th Circuit ruled although the EEOC’s list of major life activities “does not purport to be exclusive, the items on the list have several things in common with each other that driving does not share with them,” and that driving is not so important to everyday life that anyone would consider himself limited if he could not drive. If Winsley’s limited ability to drive impaired her ability to work, she might be covered under the ADA. Winsley v. Cook County, 7th Cir., No. 08-2339 (4/22/09).
Impact: Employers are advised to engage in an interactive process with employees seeking job accommodation. Although the inability to drive is not a major life activity, it could create a disability if it caused an impairment of a major life activity like “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, learning and working.”
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.