Posted by: bkivey | 21 December 2010

ADA Case of Rudolph v. Santa

By HOWARD  ZAHAROFF

Rudolph TRNR v. St. Nicholas of Patara, 1001 F. 2d. 32 (1994). Mr. Justice Pfiffel de­livered the opinion of the Court:

The plaintiff brings this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S. Code sec. 12101 (the “ADA”). It is be­fore us now on the motion of the defendant, St. Nicholas (“Claus”), for summary judg­ment.

Plaintiff maintains he is a “qualified individual with a disability.” He further alleges that defendant discriminated against him on the basis of this disability in hiring, advancement, and other privi­leges of employment. Defendant denies this claim on the grounds that, as a matter of law, there was no discrimination in hiring or employment and that, “For heaven’s sake, he’s a reindeer.” For the reasons stated below, we deny defendant’s motion for summary judg­ment and remand this case to the trial court for a hearing on the merits.

  1. I.                    Jurisdiction, Venue and Other Matters Expressed in Latin.

Defendant argues that the ADA ap­plies only to American businesses, not North Pole corporations. Moreover, says defendant, the plaintiff was not an “employee” protected under the ADA, but an independent contractor, as shown by plaintiff’s seasonal engagement, lack of health or vacation benefits, and work loca­tion (which was not defendant’s business premises, but from “the top of the porch, to the tops of the walls” visited by defendant).

Plaintiff responds that defendant’s permanent residency in the U.S., specifically New York, is a matter of public record. See Miracle on 34th Street, 1947 20th Century 96m. Further, he argues that he is no more a contractor than defendant’s other workers, who were held to be employees in Moore v. Kringle (defendant liable for intentional interference with vi­sions of sugarplums). This is sufficient to avoid dismissal on these technical grounds.

  1. II.                  Physical Impairment.

Plaintiff de­scribes his disability as Incarnadine Proboscis Syndrome (or “IPS”), an affliction suffered by alcoholics, allergy sufferers, and many others. He maintains that this impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as stopping to smell the roses and nose blowing.

Defendant retorts that it is just a “damned red nose.” Whether IPS is a sub­stantially limiting impairment is a matter to be determined by the jury; we cannot dismiss on this ground.

  1. III.                Discrimination in the Hiring Process,

Plaintiff has submitted as evidence Question 12 from defendant’s Job application

12. Do you have a shiny nose?

[If yes:] Can you even say it glows?

Defendant denies that this question is discriminatory; further he argues that the ADA does not protect persons engaging in the illegal use of drugs and that this ques­tion was properly designed to uncover users of cocaine.

Plaintiff claims that when he gave af­firmative answers to these questions, defendant did not refer him for drug testing, but instead offered him a compact and nose powder-treatment plaintiff found demeaning. Accordingly, we require fur­ther findings of fact by the trial court to untangle this

  1. IV.               Discrimination in Employment.

Plaintiff offers uncontroverted evidence that his co-work­ers “used to laugh and call him names,” such as Tomato Face, Ruby Snoot, and The Bulb. He also claims that defendant tolerated this hostile work environment, which resulted in plaintiff being denied job advancement and the opportunity to Join in any reindeer games.

Defendant denies that mere name-calling violates the ADA and points to plain­tiff’s promotion to chief sleigh-guider as evidence that he did not discriminate against plaintiff. However, we refuse to hold that defendant’s finally discovering a use for plaintiff’s disability proves that, until this discovery, plaintiff was not im­properly denied privileges of employment. Indeed, we acknowledge the public record that, for many years, plaintiff was ex­cluded from defendant’s yuletide visita­tions: “Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!” Not a single “Yo, Rudolph!”

Accordingly, the case is hereby re­manded to the trial court for proceedings consistent with our holdings.

Mr. Zaharoff is a Boston attorney. A longer version of this article appeared in the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

The Shortest Day

Today marks the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere after which the days will thankfully start to increase in length. The length of day where I live is 8h 42m today; compared with 15h 42m on the summer solstice of 21 June.

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