Under the principle of judicial estoppel, a party to a lawsuit is precluded from asserting a claim that is inconsistent with a prior statement or position. In Thompson v. Gold Medal Bakery, Inc., the First Circuit recently applied this principle in the context of a lawsuit involving claims of disability discrimination against a former employer.
Last month in Incutto v. Newton Public Schools, et al., the United States District Court - District of Massachusetts denied a Newton Public Schools' motion for summary judgment regarding a former kindergarten teacher's claim for disability discrimination, despite the school district's assertion that the teacher's ability to work full-time was an essential function of her job as a full-time teacher.
Most employers know that they have a duty to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee's disability or job restriction, but what that actually means in practice can be confusing. Statutes that require such accommodation are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and, in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Law, General Laws Ch. 151B. To fall under the protection of either statute, the employee must have a physical or mental disability (or handicap) that substantially limits one or more of his or her major life activities. The statutory definitions of major life activity are quite broad and can range from bodily functions to cognitive activities.