Joining similar holdings from several other circuits, the Ninth CircuitLucas Clary 02_web recently held in Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc. that a depressed employee who threatened to kill his co-workers and was thereafter fired was not a qualified individual under the ADA.  The court therefore affirmed the district court’s summary judgment on the employee’s disability discrimination claim.

Stress, Depression, and Bullying Lead Employee to Threaten Co-Workers’ Lives

The plaintiff, Timothy Mayo, welded aircraft parts for PCC Structurals.  In 1999, Mayo was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD).  Despite the diagnosis, he continued working without incident for years.  In 2010, that changed.  Mayo and some other co-workers felt they were being bullied by their supervisor.  Following a co-worker’s complaint and a subsequent meeting to discuss the bullying, Mayo told three different co-workers that he wanted to kill the supervisor.  He told one co-worker that he felt like bringing a shotgun to work and “blowing off” the supervisor and others’ heads.  He told another co-worker that he wanted to “bring a gun down and start shooting people,” explaining that 1:30 p.m. was an optimal time because all of the supervisors would be present.  Pretty scary stuff.

Mayo’s co-workers reported the threats and HR reached out to him.  He told an HR representative that he “couldn’t guarantee” he wouldn’t carry out the threats.  PCC suspended him and called the police, who in turn took Mayo into custody for six days on the basis that he was a threat to himself and others.  After his release, Mayo spent two months on FMLA leave.  His doctor thereafter cleared him to return to work but suggested that he be assigned a different supervisor.  Instead, PCC fired him.


Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Says Employee Who Made Death Threats Against His Co-Workers Could Not Sue His Employer For Disability Discrimination

The EEOC issued a press release on July 20, 2015 announcing that the federal appeals court has dismissed Abercrombie & Fitch’s (“AF”) appeal of the EEOC’s religious discrimination case because AF made the decision to settle the case following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

Below is a summary of the court proceedings.Beth-West-15_web

The case arose when Samantha Elauf, then a teenager who wore a headscarf or hijab as part of her Muslim faith, applied for a job at an AF store in her hometown of Tulsa, Okla.  She was denied hire for failing to conform to the company’s “look policy,” which AF claimed banned head coverings.  Elauf then filed a charge with the EEOC, alleging religious discrimination, and the EEOC filed suit against AF charging that the company refused to hire Elauf due to her religion, and that it failed to accommodate her religious beliefs by making an exception to its “look policy” prohibiting head coverings.  The trial court granted summary judgment on liability to EEOC after holding that the evidence established that Elauf wore the hijab as part of her Muslim faith, that AF was on notice of the religious nature of her practice, and that it refused to hire her as a result.  A jury subsequently awarded Elauf damages for the discrimination.

Continue Reading The Final Resolution of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision

Beth-West-15_webThe United State Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in the case of Young v. UPS on March 24, 2015.  As of now, Young’s pregnancy discrimination claim remains alive and well.

Below is a summary of the court’s ruling:

Factual and Procedural Background.

Young was a part-time driver for UPS. When she became pregnant, her doctor advised her that she should not lift more than 20 pounds. UPS, however, re­quired drivers like Young to be able to lift up to 70 pounds. UPS told Young that she could not work while under a lifting restriction. Young subsequently filed a lawsuit under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (the “Act”), claiming that UPS act­ed unlawfully in refusing to accommodate her pregnancy-related lift­ing restriction. She brought only a disparate-treatment (intentional) claim of dis­crimination, which a plaintiff can prove either by direct evidence that a workplace policy, practice, or decision relies expressly on a protect­ed characteristic, or by using the burden-shifting framework set forth in the case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green. Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the plaintiff has “the initial burden” of “establishing a prima facie case” of discrimination.  If she carries her burden, the employer must have an opportunity “to articulate some legitimate, non-discriminatory reason[s] for” the difference in treatment.  If the employer articulates such reasons, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff who has “an opportunity to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the reasons . . . were a pretext for discrimination.” (cites omitted)

UPS filed a summary judgment motion in the District Court. In reply, Young presented several favorable facts that she believed she could prove. In particular, she pointed to UPS policies that accommodated work­ers who had lifting restrictions similar to hers because they were either injured on the job or had disabilities covered by the Amer­icans with Disabilities Act   (ADA).  UPS policies also accommodated employees who couldn’t drive at all because they had lost Department of Transportation (DOT) certifications. Young argued that these policies showed that UPS discriminated against its pregnant employees because it had a light-duty-for-injury policy for numerous “other persons,” but not for pregnant workers. UPS responded that, since Young did not fall within the on-the-job injury, ADA, or DOT categories, it had not discriminated against Young on the basis of pregnancy, but had treated her just as it treated all “other relevant persons.”
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision in Young v. UPS

Recently, my Alma Mater, The University of Southern California, was sued by a former member of the Trojan football team.  Former cornerback Brian Baucham filed a lawsuit against USC and former coach Lane Kiffin, alleging he suffered permanent injuries after being forced to play in a game while he was ill.  Baucham’s lawsuit claimed that he was “forced by Coach Kiffin to play a home game even though Mr. Baucham was very ill and diagnosed by the USC Health Clinic with an influenza-like illness, viral pharyngitis and dehydration.”  After playing in a game against Berkeley, “Baucham suffered from cardiopulmonary damage, as well as brain injury with neurocognitive deficits,” according to the lawsuit.  Baucham alleges that USC and Kiffin violated both the NCAA and USC injury protocol programs when they forced him to play.

This got me to thinking: Now that the National Labor Relations Board has found that scholarship football players are employees under the NLRA, what if Mr. Baucham filed suit against USC as an employee?
Continue Reading Why Employers Should Think Twice Before Making Employees Play Hurt

When a workplace practice conflicts with an employee’s religious beliefs, the employer must consider whether a religious accommodation is available. This is the basic rule of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Many times, these issues arise in the form of scheduling conflicts when an employee’s religion compels worship on a particular day. Typical examples of religious accommodations can include changing an employee’s regular working schedule or allowing him or her to switch shifts with a co-worker. Such accommodations are typically made in response to a relatively traditional perception of religious expression. However, an employee’s religion, extends beyond traditional notions of religious practices. So what happens when an employer is presented with religious accommodation requests from Vegans? While clearly a first world problem, our Courts have been busy addressing this weighty issue.

Continue Reading Vegan Religious Bias Claim Settles for Enough to Buy A Big Juicy Steak