Curley v. City of N. Las Vegas, 772 F. 3d 629 (9th Cir. 2014)

Employee was not able to overcome an Employer’s motion for summary judgment by challenging only one of several well supported, independent reasons for termination.

The Factual Background

Plaintiff worked for Defendant City of North Las Vegas and has a history of discipline, including various oral and written reprimands, wherein Plaintiff eventually asked to be relieved from some of his duties that required him to be near particularly loud trucks, claiming the noise adversely impacted his hearing, wherein the Defendant City rejected to make such accommodation. As a result, the Plaintiff filed a charge alleging that the city denied his accommodation of a hearing impairment and he made a second request soon thereafter, wherein simultaneously Plaintiff was the subject of an internal investigation for yelling and swearing at a co-worker. The investigation revealed that Plaintiff had repeatedly threatened coworkers and their families and that he conducted personal business on city time.

The city required Plaintiff to submit to a fitness-for-duty evaluation to determine whether he was a threat to this co-worker and the evaluating physician concluded that he was not. After the investigation, the City fired him, wherein Plaintiff filed a wrongful employment discharge in Nevada state court under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging he was fired because of his hearing impairment and in retaliation for his accommodation requests. The City removed the case to the Federal district court, which entered summary judgement in the City’s favor and Plaintiff appealed on the ground that the physician’s determination of his fitness to work plainly revealed that City’s pretext.

The Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the City’s stated reasons for terminating Plaintiff were not a pretext for disability discrimination or for retaliation. Plaintiff argued that one of the City’s proffered reasons for termination, in particular the alleged threats made against others, was pre-textual and so summary judgment was inappropriate. The Ninth Circuit found that taken together, the reports of poor behavior was a legitimate basis to terminate the Plaintiff regardless of the physician’s determination and that he did not pose a future threat of safety. As a result, the Court determined that Plaintiff was not able to overcome summary judgement by disputing only one of several well-supported independently sufficient reasons for such termination.

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment based classifications including bona-fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ). If you have any employment-related dispute and are considering suing your employer for discriminatory conduct contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.