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12.4 ADA—Interacting with Others as Major Life Activity

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When the major life activity under consideration is the ability to interact with others, the plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that [he] [she] was substantially limited compared to most people in the general population. An impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered substantially limiting.

Difficulty getting along with others is not enough. A plaintiff must show that [his] [her] interactions with others were characterized on a regular basis by severe problems such as consistently high levels of hostility, social withdrawal or failure to communicate when necessary.


The Ninth Circuit has recognized interacting with others as a major life activity. Weaving v. City of Hillsboro, 763 F.3d 1106, 1112 (9th Cir.2014), cert. denied, 135 S. Ct. 1500 (2015).

The language of the instruction was taken from McAlindin v. County of San Diego, 192 F.3d 1226, 1235 (9th Cir. 1999) ("Recognizing interacting with others as a major life activity of course does not mean that any cantankerous person will be deemed substantially limited in a major life activity."). See also Weaving, 763 F.3d at 1114 (noting that interacting with others is not the same as getting along with others: "One who is able to communicate with others, though his communications may at time be offensive, ‘inappropriate, ineffective, or unsuccessful,’ is not substantially limited in his ability to interact with others within the meaning of the ADA.") (citation omitted). The definition of "substantially limited" is taken from 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(1)(ii).