Short Term Depression is not a Disability

In a recent case out of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Seibert v. Lutron Electronics, the court held that depression that was not permanent and caused by specific non-recurring events did not qualify as a disability under the ADA.  In Seibert, the plaintiff-employee suffered from depression that was caused by "her fiance's alcohol consumption, the stress of planning her wedding, financial problems, and her grandfather's illness."  This depression lead to the employee taking a leave of absence from April 2005 to October of 2005.  However, upon returning to work the employee continued to have attendance issues, which the court found were not attributable to depression, and the employer offered the employee the option to either resign her position or be terminated, with the employee choosing to resign.

The court explained that "[t]ransitory, temporary or impermanent impairments" do not meet the definition of an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity under the ADA.  In this case, accordingly, the court found that the depression was temporary.  The ADA itself defines transitory as lasting less than 6 months. 

The case is helpful for school districts in the ADA and Section 504 employment context in that it shows that short term depression caused by a specific event is not a disability.  Likewise, it is helpful under Section 504, which also applies to most school district, because Section 504 borrows the definition of disability from ADA.  Moreover, while perhaps a little less clear, this could also have implications for students in that students who claim to be disabled under Section 504 and/or IDEA due to depression might not so qualify if the depression is short term in nature and attributable to a specific event. 

We will not fight them in the courts, we will not fight them at the PLRB, we ....

While in other contexts December 7 is "a day that will live in infamy," and was a day that marked the beginning of America's concerted war efforts, the PA Commonwealth Court published a case yesterday saying instead "we are not involved."

The case involved the police union complaining that the Commonwealth of PA had hired people outside the union to do union work.  The Commonwealth claimed that what it did was permitted under a provision of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA).  The union interpreted the same contract provision differently.  In the end, the court invoked the well-established "contractual privilege" theory, saying if the union wanted to fight about it, the union would have to challenge this with an arbitrator.

The court pointed out that

the [PLRB] exists to remedy violations of statute ... and not violations of contract. Where a breach of contract is alleged, it should be resolved by an arbitrator using the grievance procedure set forth in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.

(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

This is not a new theory and I do not believe that the case really breaks any new ground.  At the same time, what is pointed out by the dissent (so clearly the three judges did not all agree on the outcome) was that interpretation of this same contract provision had already been the subject of a prior arbitration decision between the parties in a separate but markedly similar situation.  Yet even with that history the majority still told the union that its only recourse was with a new arbitration.

Shall we analogize this to Sgt. Schultz ("I see noth-ing ....")?

The case is Capitol Police Lodge No. 85 v. PLRB, No. 2012 C.D. 2009 (Pa. Cmwlth. Ct.) and can be found here.