Reynolds v. American National Red Cross, No. 11-2278 & No. 11-2280

Decided:  December 7, 2012

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s award of summary judgment in favor of the American Red Cross Greenbrier Valley Chapter, vacated the district court’s ruling that the Greenbrier Valley Chapter is an employer under the ADA, and dismissed the cross-appeal filed by the Greenbrier Valley Chapter.

Reynolds worked for the Greenbrier Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in Lewisberg, West Virginia; he first worked as a volunteer starting in 1994 and then, in 2004, he was paid for teaching health/safety, first aid, and CPR classes.  Eventually, he became a part-time employee in 2005.  During Reynolds’ first week as an employee, he was instructed to help move a baby grand piano from the home of a donor to his boss’ personal residence.  Reynolds complained of his back hurting and was later examined in the emergency room.  When Reynolds returned to work, his doctor gave him a note stating he could only lift weights up to 15 pounds, but despite this restriction, Reynolds continued to lift things in excess of 15 pounds.  Reynolds told his boss twice that he wanted to file a workers’ compensation claim, but was told he would be dismissed if he did so and that the Red Cross would fight the claim.  In January 2007, Reynolds was terminated due to budget restrictions.  Reynolds filed an action claiming that he was fired because of his alleged disability, he was retaliated against for engaging in protected activities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and his employer shared confidential medical information about his alleged disability.

To survive summary judgment on his claim under the ADA, Reynolds needed to produce evidence sufficient to show that he was a qualified individual with a disability, he was discharged, he was fulfilling his employer’s legitimate expectations at the time of his discharge, and the circumstances of his discharge raise a reasonable inference of unlawful discrimination.  Reynolds claim failed at step one because he failed to produce evidence that he was disabled.  First, the court determined that the 2008 amendments to the ADA were not applicable in Reynolds case because the amendments were not intended to be retroactive.  Then, applying the law in effect at the time of the alleged conduct, the court held that Reynolds did not show that his injuries prevented or severely restricted him from doing things important to most people’s daily lives.  Further, Reynolds did not demonstrate that he had a “record of” a physical impairment, nor could he satisfy the third possible definition of disability which is he was “regarded as” having a physical impairment.  Reynolds claim for retaliation failed because he did not produce any evidence linking his alleged protected conduct and his termination.  Finally, his confidentiality claim failed because he did not produce any evidence to support the claim.

The district court determined that the Greenbrier Valley Chapter of the Red Cross was an employer under the ADA, and the Chapter appealed this finding.  The Fourth Circuit dismissed this appeal because it was rendered moot.  By the court affirming the district court’s grant of summary judgment, any resolution regarding whether the Chapter is an employer would have no impact on the outcome of this matter.

Full Opinion

-Jennifer B. Routh

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