Joining similar holdings from several other circuits, the Ninth Circuit 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.