Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc., 795 F. 3d. 941 (9th Cir. 2015)

Plaintiff after being diagnosed with major depressive disorder was no longer considered a qualified person under the ADA or Oregon disability law after physically threatening coworker.

Plaintiff whom had been previously diagnosed with major depressive disorder was involved in an episode where he told coworkers that he was going to kill his supervisor on several occasions. Defendant, Plaintiff’s former employer called the police where Plaintiff was escorted to a hospital where he commenced medical leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act (“OFLA”) and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) where he was ultimately cleared to return to work after a treating psychologist found he was not a violent person. Defendant terminated his employment after he returned from medical leave and Plaintiff sued Defendant in federal district court, alleging his termination violated the Oregon counterpart to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) because his threats were symptoms of and otherwise caused by his disability, wherein the Court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgement.

The Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that disability discrimination cases brought under the ADA and their state counterparts are evaluated under the McDonnell Douglass burden shifting framework. As such, essentially a Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination showing he is: 1) a disabled person with the meaning of the statute; 2) he is a qualified individual with a disability and 3) he suffered an adverse employment action because of his disability.

The Court further reasoned that a qualified person is able to perform the essential functions of his position with or without reasonable accommodation, where the ability to handle stress and interact with others is an essential function of every job. In this case, the Court determined that Plaintiff’s violent threats indicated he could not appropriately handle stress; accordingly, he was determined not to be a qualified individual and could not establish a prima facie case. Since Plaintiff was not a qualified person, the Court did not need to consider whether Plaintiff’s conduct arose from his disability or constituted a separate basis for 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.