The Seventh Circuit's opinion contains useful guidance for employees suffering disability discrimination and harassment. One key takeaway: plaintiffs should not be quick to assume - in charging, pleading and proving a hostile-work-environment claim - that harassment always constitutes one continuing violation. "[A] substantial passage of time without incident known to the employer, a change in the employee's supervisors, [or] an intervening remedial action by the employer" may break the chain.
It's surprising that the district courts continue to get this wrong: the Tenth Circuit reverses summary judgment in an ADA case because the judge erroneously held that the plaintiff needed expert testimony to prove that she was disabled with a back injury.
A nurse is fired, supposedly for clinical errors, but an email is circulated to staff saying that she was fired because she "has been having major issues with her eyesight and as of late, it has seemed to be getting even worse." The Sixth Circuit finds that the email and other evidence present a triable case of regarded-as disability discrimination under the ADA.
The Second Circuit holds that even though the plaintiff (in an ADA associational discrimination case) also plead the employer's supposedly "legitimate, non-discriminatory" reasons for termination in his complaint, the district court erred in weighing them while deciding a motion to dismiss.
Here's a cautionary tale from the Sixth Circuit about disabilities discrimination: just because an employee is medically restricted in some aspect of their job does not automatically translate into a covered "disability" for purposes of the ADA. The court affirms summary judgment here, holding that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 ("ADAAA") - while it liberalized other parts of the statute - did not change the definition of "working" as a "major life activity."
While somewhat out of the lane of employment law, this Title III ADA case - about whether a restaurant ought to have accommodated a parent's request to allow a child to bring his own food on a field trip - has some good general lessons for disability-discrimination law.
The Fourth Circuit, while mostly affirming summary judgment, holds that the plaintiff - a former employee of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence - presented a genuine dispute of material fact on a claim of interference with Family and Medical Leave Act rights. The plaintiff complained that the agency failed to notify her of the right to medical leave when she presented as depressed in the workplace, complained about depression, and requested leave.
As often as discrimination cases turn on hostility towards protected-class employees, it pays to remember that the same laws apply no less to discrimination motivated by other reasons, such as misguided paternalism. Here, the Fourth Circuit sends a case back for a trial where a hospital believed that 28-year-veteran employee could no longer safely navigate its campus.
The Ninth Circuit, substantially parting with the reasoning of the Seventh, holds (2-1) that a fifth-grade parochial school teacher did not fall within the ministerial exception articulated in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (2012).