Effective treatment bars discrimination claim arising before 2009
Barnes v. GE Security, Inc., et al., No. 08-35486 (9th Cir. 06/18/09, unpublished).
In an unpublished decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for a manufacturer in a former employee's state law disability discrimination and workers' compensation retaliation suit.
What it means: For adverse actions occurring before the effective date of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, mitigating measures may be considered to determine whether an individual is disabled. Therefore, an individual whose health condition is mitigated or alleviated by medication or other remedies will have a difficult time proving disability discrimination for events occurring before Jan. 1, 2009, especially when the employer asserts a legitimate business reason for its actions.
Summary: A manufacturing employee had an anxiety disorder that was mostly controlled by medication. She experienced two or three panic attacks over several years, including one that led her to take workers' compensation leave. The manufacturer had warned the employee more than once that ongoing attendance problems could lead to her dismissal if she did not improve. Soon after the employee invoked workers' compensation, the manufacturer discharged her. The employee sued under state disability discrimination and workers' compensation laws.
The 9th Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the manufacturer. The court determined that the employee had not established whether she was disabled because her condition was controlled by medication. Her few panic attacks did not create substantial limitations on any of her major life activities, the court noted. Because she did not qualify as disabled, she did not prove her discrimination claim and the manufacturer was not required to provide an accommodation.
Additionally, the employee did not establish that the manufacturer discharged her as a result of her workers' compensation claim. It had previously warned her that her attendance was unsatisfactory and that she had violated company policies, so the court saw no causal connection between the termination and her workers' compensation claim. The employee did not present evidence that the attendance issue was pretext for discrimination.
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July 27, 2009
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