South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Kidney Failure Is a Disability

Appeals court held that an employee who suffered kidney failure that required regular dialysis was disabled. As such, he can pursue his claim for discrimination for not being promoted in favor of a candidate who appeared to have been less qualified but not disabled.


Employment Discrimination

Key Words

Disability; Promotion; Major Life Activity; Kidney Dialysis

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Heiko began work for Colombo Savings Bank in 1998. He was promoted several times and named employee of the year in 2000. That year he also began kidney dialysis. Three times a week he would spend four hours having dialysis. It is necessary to prevent death due to the inability of the kidney to filter toxins. His work schedule was changed to allow him to complete forty hour work weeks. In 2001, he and another employee applied for consideration for promotion. Without interviews, the other employee, who had less education and less experience, was selected as better qualified. His boss said that one factor considered was that if Heiko received a kidney transplant, he may miss a lot of work and that his condition might not allow him to work as hard as needed in the position. He was told not to report to work so early in the morning, which meant he could not work 40 hours a week. He was given reduced responsibilities and no pay raise in 2001. He quit and went to work elsewhere. The person promoted instead of Heiko was fired, apparently for inability to perform the job. Heiko sued for disability discrimination. The district court dismissed the suit; Heiko appealed.


Reversed. Heiko has presented an issue of material fact as to whether the employer's official reason for not promoting him was a pretext. Kidney failure is a disability. The ability of the body to eliminate toxins is a major life activity. Kidney failure substantially limits life activities, but Heiko was able to perform his job, as illustrated by the quality of his work. It will be determined at trial if he was discriminated against with respect to not being promoted.


Heiko v. Colombo Savings Bank, 434 F.3d 249 (4 th Cir., 2006)

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