Employment Mavens: Is “Extreme Gas” A Disability”

This is a real lawsuit, the allegations of which have gone viral because of all of the obvious jokes that can – and have been – made.  But it’s no joke to the sufferer – or the employer.

Apparently an employee, who weighed 420 pounds, underwent gastric bypass surgery and as a result developed side effects:  extreme gas and uncontrollable diarrhea.   According to the complaint the symptoms got worse and caused “significant disruption in the workplace.”

The employer’s president told him that he had to work from home because the office environment smelled.

Not so funny – but the other discrimination blogs roared with laughter and fell over themselves for the most creative titles.

Mask, Gas, Male, Man, Boy, Young (OK – so one stupid pic.  Sue me.)

The employee was ultimately fired and is allegedly “pursuing the matter through the EEOC,” and his wife, also an employee there, is claiming “associational discrimination” under the ADA and state law in that the owner and president allegedly harassed her about her husband’s condition.

Here’s the quiz for lawyers, would-be lawyers and HR people:

  1. What claim can allegedly be made out under the ADA by the husband?
  2. What is/was the husband’s disability? Flatulence? Obesity? Are these recognized as a disability or can they be?
  3. And what is “associational discrimination” and what does the wife have to show to make out such a case?

Extra credit for the first correct answers.

See the Complaint in Louann Clem v. Case Pork Roll Co., D. NJ, Case 3:15-cv-06809-FLW-LHG – filed 9/11/15.

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Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]