Eshleman v. Patrick Industries Inc, No. 19-1403 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Eshleman started working as a Patrick truck driver in 2013. In 2015, Eshleman took medical leave to undergo surgery to remove a nodule from his lung. After two months of medical leave, Eshleman returned to work without restrictions. Six weeks later, Eshleman suffered a severe respiratory infection from January 27-31, 2016 (spanning a weekend). His supervisor approved two vacation days. With his physician’s approval, Eshleman returned to work in his full capacity on February 1. At the end of his second day back, Patrick fired him. The Superintendent cited “performance issues.” Eshleman reminded the Superintendent that his performance review from January 2016 had been excellent. Thereafter, the Superintendent claimed that Eshleman was fired because he had not called out sick during his leave for the respiratory infection. Later, Eshleman learned that the reason for termination had been changed again; Patrick was claiming he had been fired for “behavioral issues.”
Eshleman sued, alleging that he was fired because he was regarded as disabled, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and that the shifting reasons for his termination were a pretext for illegal disability discrimination. The district court dismissed, holding that the ADA did not cover Eshleman’s “regarded as” claim because his impairment lasted less than six months and was “transitory and minor.” The Third Circuit reversed. The district court did not conduct an independent analysis into whether Eshleman’s impairment was minor, apart from whether it was transitory.