Man Sues Employer For Wrongful Termination After Court Decides His Disability Falls Within Amended ADA, With Paul Mollica, Outten and Golden

Anthony Mazzeo, an employee for Color Resolutions International, LLC, a color dye company, suffered a back injury which restricted him in being able to do his job in sales. He couldn't lift more than 10 pounds and had prepared himself for a surgery to correct his back pain. After he informed his employer and requested time off for the surgery, his boss started the paperwork to fire him, and two days before his scheduled surgery, he was terminated from the company.

Mazzeo brought his claim in the District Court, claiming he was terminated as a result of his disability and age; he was 46 at the time, and his replacement was someone by the age of 23. The District Court dismissed his age discrimination claims, focusing on the disability claim, and held that he wasn't really disabled under the American Disabilities Act because he was not substantially limited in one or more “major life activities,” according to our guest, Paul Mollica, an employment attorney with Outten and Golden in New York. 

Attorney Paul Mollica, Outten & Golden, Employment Law Expert and Commentator.

Attorney Paul Mollica, Outten & Golden, Employment Law Expert and Commentator.

Attorney Mollica explains in this interview on The Legal Broadcast Network that the District Court relied on case law developed under the old ADA before Congress amended it in 2008. Mollica explained that the amendment was passed in response to a number of Supreme Court and other judicial rulings that severely limited the definition of who was substantially limited in one or more major life activities. In their opinion, the 11th Circuit held that, even though the District Court was relying on pre-ADA law, the ADA was now quite different and must be properly considered in determination of discrimination under the ADA. Mazzeo v. Color Resolutions International, LLC, No. 12-10250 (11th Cir. Mar. 31, 2014). By requiring a more generous and forgiving interpretation, the 11th Circuit revisited the old law and concluded that, under the new ADA regulations, a lift restriction that prevented Mazzeo from doing his job did substantially limit him, as it now meant something more generous than previously considered under the prior law. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A).

Mollica believes that this case will turn out to be important for both employees with disabilities and human resources executives in understanding the current law. The interpretation of the law which was developed under the old ADA really has been transformed by Congress. Both lawyers and human resource professionals need to be aware of these expanded definitions in the current law. In Mazzeo's case, he will now get a trial, and a jury will decide these questions, which is what Congress intended with the 2008 ADA amendment.

Paul Mollica is counsel for Outten and Golden LLP, a law firm focusing on employment law. PAUL W. MOLLICA joined Outten & Golden LLP as Of Counsel in 2010. Mr. Mollica has wide appellate experience, including dozens of appeals in state and federal courts, and has often authored or co-authored amicus briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeals for such national organizations as the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, ACLU, NAACP, AARP, People for the American Way, and the National Employment Lawyers Association. He is also a frequent author and lecturer (for lawyers and courts) in the area of employment discrimination. He served as executive editor on the Fourth Edition of Lindemann and Grossman's Employment Discrimination Law (BNA 2007) and upcoming Fifth Edition (anticipated for 2013), and worked as associate editor on all supplements since 2000.  Since 2004, Mr. Mollica has authored the "Daily Developments in EEO Law" law blog. For more information on Paul Mollica, click here.  For more information on this case, go to the Employment Law Blog.  Paul’s commentary was hosted by the Employment Law Channel, a part of The Legal Broadcast Network, a featured network of Sequence Media Group.