Worker who is afraid to drive isn’t ‘disabled’

A nurse who worked as a family case worker – and who had to drive to various people’s homes to evaluate their situation – suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after a car accident. As a result, she had difficulty driving. She took multiple leaves of absence, received unsatisfactory evaluations, and eventually left her job. Later she sued, claiming she was discriminated against because of a disability.

So the question was, is “fear of driving” a disability? Not under federal law, a federal appeals court in Chicago decided. Under the law, a “disability” is something that substantially restricts a person in a major life activity. And the court said that driving doesn’t count as a major life activity. Many Americans choose not to drive, and there is no inherent right to drive, the court said. However, the court noted that an employee’s fear of driving might amount to a disability if it somehow interfered with some other activity that qualified as a major life activity.