New Discrimination, Disability Case
The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled than an employee who made an accommodation request for a disability after engaging in serious work-place misconduct had not been discriminated against by her employer upon termination. This case forced the Court to balance the rights and protections Congress has put in place for disabled employees and an employers’ right to discharge disabled and non-disabled employees alike for violating established and neutrally applied rules of conduct.
This decision stems from a case brought by an employee suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). The employee alleged disability discrimination and failure to accommodate on the part of her employer, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The employee engaged in behavior that included throwing and slamming company equipment and directing expletives towards her co-workers. The employer found that this behavior breached its rules of conduct and made the decision to fire the employee. Before the employer was able to act on its decision, the employee informed the employer of her disability, PTSD. In this communication, the employee requested a workplace accommodation, to work from home, to avoid recurrence of the problem behavior. The employer denied this request and fired the employee.
The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. District Court judge’s decision in favor of the employer, finding where “an accommodation request follows fireable misconduct, it ordinarily should not be viewed as an accommodation proposal at all” and an interactive process may not be required. The Court further found that the employee failed to establish the employer had discriminatory intent related to the employee’s PTSD, as would support her ADA disparate treatment discrimination claim.
This ruling puts employees in a catch 22—alert your employer of your disability, which may put you at risk of future negative treatment, or risk being fired without recourse when your previously unannounced disability manifests and causes complications in the workplace. If you or someone you know needs advice navigating the difficulties associated with working with a disability, the attorneys of MA Employment Lawyers are standing by. You can contact us by calling or by emailing us.
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