Am I disabled? How do I get an accommodation at work for my disability? Can my job fire me for being disabled or asking for an accommodation? Do I have a claim?
When someone discriminates against you or unlawfully retaliates against you, it can be challenging to keep your cool. But as one federal judge in Texas recently held, it is critical that employees seeking to assert their rights control their temper, and not put up obstructions to the employers attempts to resolve the employee’s complaints.
In Overton v. Seaborn Health Care Inc., Overton was a phlebotomist (a person who draws blood) for a contractor who performed medical services for the Air Force. Due to the repetitive nature of drawing blood, Overton eventually developed tendinitis in her right elbow and pain in her right shoulder. Overton went to a doctor, who recommended that she not work with her hand or arm for more than two hours a day. However, this did not mean that Overton could do no other work, and her left arm and elbow were unaffected.
When Overton notified her Air Force supervisors of her restrictions, and asked that she be given other work assignments besides drawing blood for part of the day, she was told that she would simply have to go home after working for two hours. However, instead of protecting her rights and calling the right attorney, Overton went into a complete meltdown, yelling, waving her arms in the air, and “jabbing her finger at [her supervisor].” Even worse, Overton behaved this way in full view of service members, contractors, and patients in the medical facility. Shortly afterwards, Overton’s Air Force supervisors contacted her supervisor at Seaborn, and invited Overton to participate in a conference call in order to figure out a solution to her complaints. Overton refused, claiming she did not trust her Air Force supervisors, and did not want them to be part of the call. Overton was then escorted off the Air Force base by security. Seaborn then terminated Overton.
Subsequently, Overton sued Seaborn, alleging that it violated the AAmericans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and had retaliated against her for filing a worker’s compensation claim (for her tendinitis). Seaborn filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that (1) Seaborn’s requested accommodation was not reasonable because there was no work she could do that would not require her to use her right arm whatsoever, and (2) that Seaborn did not treat Overton differently than non-disabled employees, and (3) that Seaborn had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating Overton- her public outburst. The Court found that there were no genuine disputes as to any material facts, and granted Seaborn’s motion:
Even if Ms. Overton could establish a prima facie case, Seaborn has provided sufficient evidence of a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for her termination. Viewing the evidence most favorably to Ms. Overton, her own testimony establishes that she had a confrontation with Seaborn’s clients at [Lackland Air Force Base.] When the dispute arose on January 26 over how to interpret Ms. Overton’s restrictions, Ms. Overton admits that she was upset. Overton Dep. at 85. Specifically, she told Seaborn’s clients that she didn’t trust them and did not want to talk with them when they asked her to discuss her restrictions on speaker phone with her boss, Ms. Amadio. Overton Dep. at 85. The Fifth Circuit has held that “the failure of a subordinate to follow a direct order of a supervisor is a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for discharging that employee.” Chaney v. New Orleans Pub. Facility Mgmt., Inc., 178 F. 3d 164, 167 (5th Cir. 1999). Here, Ms. Overton did not disobey a supervisor, but a client. The kind of insubordination at issue in Chaney can sometimes be rectified without damage to the business. However, when a government contractor such as Ms. Overton refuses to obey a legitimate order to discuss her own medical restrictions and then questions the integrity of her government clients, an employer such as Seaborn is put in at least some danger of losing future business. Accordingly, Seaborn’s stated reason for terminating Ms. Overton is legitimate. Moreover, Ms. Overton has not offered any evidence to show that this was a pretext for discrimination.
So what’s the lesson to be learned here? If Overton had simply kept calm, and worked with her supervisors to resolve her concerns, she might have kept her job. At the very least, her case would have been a lot stronger if she was nice, and was fired anyways. Instead, she gave her employer the perfect excuse to terminate her. So if you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then don’t lose your temper – call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disables employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio law.
If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disables employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio law.
The materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get a work accommodation for my disability?”, “am I disabled under the ADA?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, attorney Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.