William Martinsky was a sergeant employed by the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut Police Department. On June 11, 2007, Martinsky was involved in an off-duty dispute concerning a restaurant business he owned with another sergeant. The incident culminated with Martinsky’s arrest for larceny in the fifth degree.
After his arrest, Martinsky began to suffer from acute anxiety, immobilizing panic attacks, and depression. The City placed Martinsky on medical leave for a period of time, and eventually retired him on a disability pension in 2009 based on a finding that he was permanently disabled from the performance of his duties by reason of mental or physical disability.
Martinsky brought a lawsuit against the City under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Martinsky claimed that his panic disorder was a condition covered by the ADA, and that the City failed to reasonably accommodate his condition by assigning him to a position in booking.
A federal trial court found that Martinsky ‘s panic disorder did in fact qualify as an “impairment” potentially protected by the ADA. However, the Court also found that Martinsky was obligated to show that his mental condition substantially limited one or more major life activities. Martinsky pointed to the fact that he could not perform the normal job duties of a police sergeant, and argued that he was substantially limited in performing the major life activity of “working.”
The Court disagreed. The Court found that “when the major life activity under consideration is that of working, the phrase ‘substantially limits’ requires, at a minimum, that plaintiffs allege that they are unable to work in a broad class of jobs. Martinsky’s anxiety did not preclude him from a broad class of jobs. Rather, his anxiety is specifically related to the Police Department.
“An independent evaluation found that ‘it is highly probable that Martinsky could not work in any capacity in the Bridgeport Police Department,’ but it is possible he might be able to work in another Police Department. Martinsky’s inability to continue to work in the capacity as a sergeant in the Bridgeport Police Department does not qualify him as impaired from the major life activity of working.”
Martinsky v. City of Bridgeport, 2011 WL 338-0921 (D. Conn. 2011).
This article appears in the November 2011 issue.