Mr. Walker, a veteran law enforcement officer, was diagnosed with diabetes over 17 years ago. In 1998, Mr. Walker was hired by the City of Vicksburg Police Department (City) as a patrol officer. He frequently worked the "C Shift," which ran from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am. In February 2004, Mr. Walker began experiencing dizziness, lapses in memory and drowsiness while on the job. He consulted Dr. Wilson, who felt Mr. Walker should be reassigned to shifts during the standard working day. Mr. Walker submitted to the City a letter from Dr. Wilson and requested a reasonable accommodation in his work hours. Mr. Walker, however, was not assigned to day shifts, and returned to the C Shift in April.
In early May, Mr. Walker began experiencing blackout periods while driving. His supervisor assigned him to temporary desk duty. Additionally, the supervisor requested a letter from Dr. Wilson assuring the City that Mr. Walker would not experience anymore blackouts, before he would be permitted to resume patrol officer duties. Subsequently, the City referred Mr. Walker to another doctor, Dr. Nicolas, who claimed there was no correlation between Mr. Walker's diabetes and the drowsiness he experienced on the night shift. Dr. Wilson did not agree with Dr. Nicolas' assessment and wrote a letter in response. Dr. Wilson's letter reiterated that because of Mr. Walker's diabetes he should work normal daytime hours and sleep during the night, and suggested he could work any shifts between 6am and 6pm. Mr. Walker informed the City of Dr. Wilson's suggestion and requested the reasonable accommodation of working a day shift. When Mr. Walker returned to patrol duties, nonetheless, he was placed on the C Shift, and soon after assigned to the "B Shift" (i.e., between the hours of 3 pm and 11 pm).
The City argued Mr. Walker did not present any evidence of having a disability under the ADA.
The Court determined that his eating habits were not "restricted to a large degree," and thus he was not substantially limited in the major life activity of eating.
The Court found Mr. Walker's dizziness and blackout periods sufficient evidence of the diabetes affecting his ability to care for himself for a jury to determine he was substantially limited in this major life activity. Similarly, the Court found the dizziness and blackouts sufficient evidence of the diabetes affecting his thinking to go to a jury.
The Court concluded Mr. Walker presented enough evidence of substantial limitations to go forward with his ADA claim. At trial, the Court will determine if Mr. Walker qualifies as an individual with disability under the ADA, and if so, will determine if the City failed to provide him a reasonable accommodation.
The Court noted concern that if it determined Mr. Walker was substantially limited in the major life activity of eating, then any person who had to keep a close eye on his/her diet may be considered an individual with a disability under the ADA. This might include people who are lactose intolerant or have food allergies, as well as most everyone diagnosed with diabetes. Generally, major life activities may include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.