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No Disability for Psychological Electromagnetic Distress

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal appeals court summarily dispatched a lawsuit for psychological distress caused by electromagnetic voltage.

In a three-page opinion -- including one page for the caption -- the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a dismissal against a Travelodge employee in Hirmiz v. New Harrison Hotel Corp. George D. Hirmiz had sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming he suffered from exposure to electromagnetic voltage at the hotel.

Disability for WiFi Allergies?

Citing a report titled "Are WiFi Allergies a Real Thing?" the appeals court said there is a debate about whether sensitivity to electromagnetic voltage is a physical disorder or a psychological one.

"If it is psychological, the symptoms might not constitute a disorder that would entitle Hirmiz to the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act," Judge Richard Posner wrote for the court. "A great deal of psychological distress is trivial--fear of black cats, for example."

Cats and Dogs

Hirmiz, a front-desk clerk at the Travelodge, was fired after being caught on video asleep while several guests were fighting like cats and dogs. He then sued the hotel, alleging an electromagnetic disability and retaliation for complaining about it.

A district court judge granted a summary judgment in favor of the hotel, finding that Hirmiz had not shown he was disabled under the ADA or that his complaint about electromagnetism had anything to do with his termination.

A Short Circuit

On appeal, Hirmiz tried to offer new evidence about his medical condition and his communications with the FBI and the Governor of Illinois. The court, of course, short-circuited his argument.

"No luck; new evidence may not be presented on appeal," the panel said.

Hirmiz submitted his argument on March 27, 2017. The court issued its opinion after about a week.

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