The United States District Court of Maryland has ruled that an employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when he was dismissed due to vision problems. The vision problems were caused by a benign brain tumor for which the employee was seeking medical treatment. The employer argued the condition didn’t legally constitute a disability. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) disagreed, and the District Court affirmed the EEOC’s decision.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by their employer with 15 or more employees. Prohibited conduct includes cutting pay or benefits, refusing to hire a disabled person, firing a person for becoming disabled, refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for a disability, or harassing disabled people on the job. It also prohibits retaliating against someone for reporting discriminatory behavior.
In this case, the employer was accused of applying a double standard when the disabled employee and two other employees got into a heated argument. While the other two employees were reprimanded, the disabled employee was fired, a result he blamed on his disability. The employer claimed his condition didn’t qualify as a disability, and moved to have the case dismissed, but the District Court agreed that the ADA’s definition of a disability- which is a condition that causes significant impairment to major life activities- applied in this case. In particular, the court noted that the tumor inhibited normal cell growth, which was enough to qualify as a disability on its own, even without the vision problems it caused.
Moreover, the employer attempted to claim that they didn’t know about the disabled employee’s condition prior to firing him, although emails were found during the discovery phase that that weakened this argument. They also argued that the disabled employee was fired due to his misconduct while he was still on probation, while the other employees had already worked beyond their probationary period. However, the court denied this argument as well, noting that all three were at-will employees, and the argument that he was fired because he was a probationary employee was a post-hoc justification, not the actual reason for the firing at the time. Thus, the court was left to conclude the employer’s behavior was discriminatory.
If you have been the victim of discrimination in your workplace or suffered retaliation for reporting discrimination, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf during the legal process. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer who has considerable experience in handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steve Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.