Forklift Operator Loses Overtime ADA Battle

January 28, 2002 ( - Simply because a General Mills forklift operator claims he is unable to work beyond an eight-hour shift doesn't make him eligible for workplace protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

That was the ruling by the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in upholding a lower-court decision, throwing out a discrimination lawsuit by Terry Boerst, according to a Bureau of National Affairs report.

Boerst sued the giant consumer-products conglomerate under the ADA and Ohio state law after he was suspended for refusing overtime. The suit, seeking backpay, demanded General Mills make a special arrangement for him to keep working.

Worry Over Overtime

According to the Bureau of National Affairs report, Boerst claimed that he suffered from anxiety, fatigue and other ailments because of his unease about a long work shift. At first, his doctor recommended he be excused from overtime and General Mills, at first, excused him from longer hours.

Things escalated in May 1997 when General Mills changed its position and told Boerst he had to work overtime. According to the Bureau of National Affairs report, he went on medical leave and got recommendations from two more doctors that he avoid overly long work shifts.

In August 1997, Boerst began taking the medication Zoloft to alleviate his anxiety and stress. By November 1997, he was back at his job with the overtime restriction, sometimes working seven days a week. According to the court, he continues to work at General Mills and still is on the same eight-hours-per-day restriction.

In his appeal, Boerst argued that he had three impairments–stress, anxiety, and fatigue-and that these substantially limited four activities that he claimed qualify as major life activities under ADA – concentrating, maintaining stamina, sleeping, and working.

However, the appeals court said that while sleeping and working are major life activities under ADA, concentrating and maintaining stamina are not.

The court said that Boerst cannot show that he is substantially limited in a major life activity unless he can show either that he cannot perform a major life activity that an average person can; or his performance of a major life activity is significantly restricted when compared to an average person.