Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: Is still discrimination if I was fired for making repeated mistakes but also because I have a disability? If my termination was only partially based on my disability, can I sue? How do I sue my employer for wrongful termination?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a qualified employee on the basis of the employee’s disability. As our employment discrimination attorneys we have previously blogged about, to make out a prima facie case of wrongful termination based on disability, an employee must establish that he or she: (1) has a disability or was perceived to have a disability by his or her boss, manager or supervisor, (2) was fully able to perform the essential functions of the job, either with or without reasonable accommodations, and (3) was terminated by his or her employer, at least in part, because of the disability. (See What Does My Employer Have To Do To Accommodate My Disability? I Need A Lawyer!; I Was Fired For Going To AA Meetings. ADA Violation?; Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer: Is It Disability Discrimination If My Job Will Not Accommodate My Anti-Social Disorder?; Top Disability Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Can I Bring A Service Dog To Work As A Disability Accommodation Under The ADA?; and Can I Sue For Disability Discrimination If I’m Just Related To A Disabled Person? I Need A Lawyer!).
A disability discrimination lawsuit in Kansas makes clear that an employer’s decision to terminate need not be based entirely on an employee’s disability to qualify as wrongful termination under the ADA and similar state laws. Rather, as mentioned above, if the employer decided to terminate the employee even partly because of the employee’s disability, the employee may have a legitimate wrongful termination claim.
Matthew Michaels, a nine-year veteran of the McPherson Police Department, was terminated in July of 2012. McPherson’s Chief of Police recommended the termination to the city commission based on Michaels’ history of, “being argumentative with superiors, insubordination, conduct unbecoming an officer, sleeping on duty,” and, “numerous other circumstances and situations where he was no longer viable to be a police officer.” It was the bit about sleeping on duty that cost the city nearly a million dollars.
Following his termination, Michaels brought suit alleging that the city terminated him based on his disability, sleep apnea. A few years prior to his termination, Michaels was written up after being repeatedly caught sleeping in his patrol car. Michaels was subsequently diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea, was successfully treated for the condition, and thereafter had no further incidents of falling asleep on the job. Michaels did receive further reprimands, twice in May of 2012 and again in July of 2012, each time for incidents of insubordination, none of which had anything to do with his sleep apnea.
However, because the police Chief specifically listed Michaels’ sleeping on duty as one of the reasons for his termination, a jury found that the city violated the ADA and awarded Michaels a total of $921,657 in damages, most of that amount representing future lost income. While the police Chief considered a number of factors in deciding to terminate Michaels, Michaels’ disability was clearly part of the equation, and the Chief stated as much.
The lesson is clear. An employee’s disability cannot factor into hiring or firing decisions at all. Michaels may have been less than an ideal employee. However, because the city used Michaels’ disability as a factor in deciding to terminate him, even if it was just a “plus factor,” it violated the law.
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 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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