Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can my job refuse to provide me an accommodation for my disability? Can I still sue my employer for wrongful termination even if I don’t have physical proof of being discriminated against? Does my employer have to allow me to bring my service animal to work with me?
Over the course of this past century, a quick review of pop culture shows that society has a fascination with legal drama. In the 1930’s through the 1950’s, Americans tuned in to both radio, film, and television programming to follow Perry Mason‘s criminal defense capers. The catalogue of these vintage shows are filled with campy names, such as, “The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat,” “The Case of the Drowsy Mosquito,” or, “The Case of the Stuttering Bishop.” Perry Mason evolved into Andy Griffith’s character, “Matlock“ and other dramas followed, like Night Court, L.A. Law, Law and Order, Boston Legal, Ally McBeal. Some of America’s most memorable movie scenes come from legal themed movies like, “A Few Good Men,” “A Time to Kill,” “Twelve Angry Men,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and even, “My Cousin Vinny.”
As a result of this allure, employees who contact our firm sometimes think that they may not have a case unless they can produce the equivalent of photos of tire tracks, a weapon with fingerprints, or a DNA ridden piece of clothing. But you may surprised to find out that the realities of practicing law are a lot less dramatic, and that you may be able to recover on your claim despite the absence of a “smoking gun.”
As proof that a plaintiff can succeed without hard physical evidence, take for instance, a recent disability discrimination case out of Hawaii where a former employee of Hertz Car Sales filed a suit alleging that he suffered from disability discrimination. John Assaturian was a location manager for Hertz in Honolulu. In 2004 he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and ulcerative proctitis. He claimed that the medical conditions interfered with his ability to sleep which in turn affected his mood and temperament. Assaturian had several run-ins with his subordinate employees and was written up for angry outbursts. In 2011, Assaturian began to be treated for depression, dysthemic disorder and adjustment disorder. During the suit, Assaturian provided oral statements under oath claiming that his medical conditions affected his ability to eat, sleep, concentrate, take care of himself, and exercise.
Assaturian began to bring his small dog, named Sugar Bear, to work with him. Assaturian claimed that Sugar Bear was a service animal and had a card certifying that his dog was allowed to be in public places because of this card. Assaturian claimed that the dog helped calm him and also helped him to control his irritability and angry mood swings. During a surprise visit from a Hertz management employee, Assaturian’s employer became aware of the animal and after an angry confrontation with his manager, Assaturian was told he needed to provide documentation supporting that he needed to bring the dog to work as an accommodation for his disability.
After this confrontation, Assaturian failed to provide the requested documents because he believed that his employer had already decided not to allow him to bring Sugar Bear to work. He testified that Hertz knew he had the service animal card, yet still requested a doctor’s note. Hertz and Assaturian did not engage in any other discussions relating to his condition, and Assaturian was subsequently terminated following another angry outburst with a subordinate employee.
Although Assaturian could not produce any documents showing that he was terminated as a result of his disability, his verbal testimony conflicted with the testimony of Hertz over important details and material aspects and elements of his claims so the judge ultimately allowed his claim to proceed to a jury.
The language from the decision is particularly helpful and instructive:
The Court first finds that genuine issues of material fact exist with respect to whether decision makers at Hertz knew of Assaturian’s disabilities. According to Tison and McNellis, Assaturian never told them of any disability or medical condition prior to his termination. Tison Decl. ¶¶ 14, 17, 19; McNellis Decl. ¶¶ 6, 12. Assaturian, on the other hand, claims that during the November 17, 2011 discussion regarding bringing Sugar Bear into the office, he told Tison that the dog helped with his “anger issues,” “emotions,” and “medical condition.” Pl. Decl. ¶¶ 16-18. He further claims that he “repeated to Tison in December 2011, that I was under medical care for a disability.” Pl. Decl. ¶ 20. Viewing the record in the light most favorable to Assaturian, there is a question of fact regarding whether the decisionmakers at Hertz had notice of his disabilities, and accordingly, whether Assaturian satisfies the elements of his prima facie case.
Hertz contends that it terminated Assaturian based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons, i.e., the 2008 and March 2012 incidents involving inappropriate angry outbursts directed toward his subordinates. Assaturian argues that these reasons are pretextual because the conduct that purportedly led to his termination was caused by his disability, and because similarly situated employees were not terminated for abusive behavior towards their subordinates. According to Assaturian, his supervisor, McNellis “had several complaints made against him for being verbally abusive towards employees and for which McNellis’ supervisor, Al Blazquez, did nothing about.” Pl. Decl. ¶ 21; Pl. Dep. 150-55. Assaturian does not elaborate on how McNellis is similarly situated or the specifics of the alleged incidents. If, however, a reasonable juror could find that Hertz’s decisionmakers knew of his disabilities, and that these decisionmakers nonetheless terminated him for conduct that was symptomatic of his disability, Assaturian could arguably succeed on his claim for unlawful termination. See Gambini v. Total Renal Care, Inc., 486 F.3d 1087, 1094 (9th Cir. 2007)…Accordingly, the Court finds that questions of fact exist with respect to whether Assaturian was terminated because of his disability, and the Motion is DENIED as to this issue.
For employees “lucky” enough to live in Ohio instead of Hawaii, the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.02(A) provides similar protections to workers to prevent discrimination based on a disability or perceived disability. These laws also require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees if the accommodation permits the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job without creating undue hardship for the company.
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. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys at (216) 291-4744. The best option is not to wait. The Spitz Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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