"At issue in this case is whether a telecommuting arrangement could be a reasonable accommodation for an employee suffering from a debilitating disability." The Sixth Circuit, in a 2-1 split opinion, holds that the EEOC is entitled to a trial on behalf of an employee with irritable bowel syndrome ("IBS") for ADA discrimination and retaliation. The panel majority holds, in the course of its analysis, that a four-day-a-week telecommuting schedule might be considered a reasonable accommodation.
Here's a nice, simple reminder for HR professionals and laid-off employees: that when an employer can not line-up behind a single reason (or even a single decisionmaker) for a termination decision, and instead keeps changing its mind, the reason lurking beneath may well be discrimination. The Sixth Circuit sends an age-discrimination claim back for trial where the employer allegedly switched stories midstream, from contending that the employee's job was eliminated to arguing that the termination was based on a negative performance evaluation.
As recently noted here (see entry for January 26, 2014), the U.S. Courts of Appeals are just now deciding the next generation of disabilities-discrimination law cases governed by the 2008 Americans With Disabilities Act amendments (ADAAA). Here, the Eleventh Circuit notes - in a case reversing summary judgment for an employee in chronic pain - that some of its prior, more restrictive case law must now be reconsidered. (And, as an added bonus, the employee also earns a reversal of his age discrimination claim.)
In a non-precedential opinion that may nevertheless be important to litigators, a Fifth Circuit panel splits three ways on whether an employee must continue to defend her Title VII prima facie case under the McDonnell Douglas rubric after the employer presents a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for an employee's termination. The courts continue to disagree on this issue even decades after the Supreme Court first framed-out this method of proof.
The Sixth Circuit sends back for trial an ADA and Family and Medical Leave Act case, where the employee - returning from medical leave, but still experiencing health difficulties - was forced to work beyond his medical restrictions. He was allegedly told by a Vice President of the company, shortly before his termination, that (1) the employer was not covered by the FMLA, and (2) the employee was a "liability" to the company. The panel holds that there is sufficient evidence that the company, while employing fewer than the necessary fifty employees mandated by the FMLA, was an "integrated employer" with a larger affiliated company.
The panel majority in this Eleventh Circuit appeal reverses summary judgment in an ADA and Florida state law claim. It holds that FedEx possibly imposed an impermissible qualification standard on a job applicant with diabetes, by insisting that he pass a federal Department of Transportation medical certification for a mechanic's position that was not otherwise subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).
When a retirement plan manages employees' money, it also has a responsibility to keep an eye on the expenses that can quietly erode away earnings. The Eighth Circuit affirms an ERISA breach of fiduciary duty judgment against two retirement plans for allowing its recordkeeper to overcharge the fund for services, and orders the return of $13.4 million. The court nonetheless vacates for further proceedings a claim for inappropriate investment options, and reverses (over a dissent) a judgment that the plan recordkeeper converted short-term funds (a "float") to non-plan purposes.
In a dramatic turnabout for the plaintiff, the Sixth Circuit not only reverses summary judgment in this ADA case - holding that there was a genuine dispute of material fact whether a monocular firefighter could perform the essential functions of his job - but then disqualifies the original district court judge in the case on the grounds of appearance of partiality, when that judge arbitrarily limited plaintiff's discovery and then scolded him (groundlessly) for violating a court order.
The Tenth Circuit today issued a terribly important read for people interested in fighting workplace sex harassment. The panel reverses summary judgment in a Title VII case where a woman jail employee was (allegedly) sexually assaulted by a sergeant, repeatedly, and yet failed to complain immediately for fear of losing her job. While not a complete win for the employee, the opinion points the way to others trapped in similar workplace dilemmas.
A Sixth Circuit case addresses the occasional issue of whether Title VII supports "sex-plus" claims - in this case, a claim that she suffered discrimination specifically as an African-American woman. The panel agrees that such a claim can be made, and that the employee may point to treatment of non-African-American women as comparable employees. The case also goes to show the importance of email traffic in discrimination cases.