Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can I overcome a “reduction in force” defense by showing that I was only included in the reduction in force due to my disability or request for a reasonable disability accommodation? Can I still sue my former employer for wrongful termination if I was part of a reduction in force? What evidence must I have to overcome a reduction in force? What if my employer terminates me after I request an accommodation for my disability but also fires other employees as well?
All employees are protected under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act and Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.02(A) from being discriminated against or retaliated against by their employers on the basis of their actual or perceived disability. These laws also protect employees against retaliation following the request for a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Recently, an Oklahoma federal court examined a former employee’s wrongful termination claims based on disability discrimination and FMLA retaliation under the context of a reduction-in-force.
In Reed v. Tetra Tech, Inc., the Oklahoma federal district court denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment despite its argument that the plaintiff employee was terminated as part of a reduction-in-force, not because she had a disability. In Reed, the employee, who suffered from Lupus, informed her supervisor of her disability and requested a computer screen as an accommodation just a few weeks before she was terminated. In surviving summary judgment, the employee was able to present evidence that her supervisor participated in the reduction-in-force decision.
Furthermore, although the employer did present evidence of a non-discriminatory legitimate reason for termination, the plaintiff employee was able to present evidence of pretext. Specifically, there was evidence showing an inconsistency in the employer’s position as to whether the employee was compared against other similarly-situated coworkers as part of the reduction-in-force process. Moreover, there were questions of fact surrounding a low performance rating that the employee’s supervisor gave her soon before she was terminated. For these reasons, the employer was not entitled to summary judgment, thereby allowing the employee’s claims to proceed to trial.
Specifically, the trial court held:
Tetra Tech asserts that Reed has not demonstrated that there is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. Specifically, Tetra Tech contends that Reed has no evidence that Bailie (or any other supervisor) had actual knowledge of Reed’s requests for an accommodation prior to the date that the decision was made to eliminate the receptionist position. As set forth above, the Court has found that Reed has presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Covalt was involved in the decision to include Reed in the RIF and as to whether Covalt knew that Reed had a disability and knew that Reed had requested an accommodation for her disability. Additionally, as set forth above, the Court finds the temporal proximity of Reed’s request for the computer monitor shield and her advising Covalt that she needed the shield because of her disability and her termination is sufficient to show a causal connection between Reed’s request for an accommodation and her termination. Further, for the reasons set forth in Section III(A), the Court finds Tetra Tech has proffered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for Reed’s termination and Reed has presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Tetra Tech’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason is pretextual. Accordingly, the Court finds that Tetra Tech is not entitled to summary judgment as to Reed’s ADA retaliation claim.
The employee’s Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) retaliation claims survived summary judgment as well. Specifically, the Court reached the conclusion that questions of fact remained regarding whether the employer’s receptionist position (the position held by the plaintiff) would have been eliminated regardless of whether the plaintiff had requested intermittent FMLA leave.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. 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 disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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