Testifying at wife's hearing doesn't yield protections under ADA
Case name: Leavitt v. SW&B Construction Co., LLC, No. 1:10-cv-00030-JAW (D. Me. 02/25/11).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of Maine granted summary judgment to a construction company on a safety coordinator's discrimination and retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
What it means: According to this court, testifying in a workers' compensation hearing in opposition to an employer does not qualify as protected activity under the ADA.
Summary: A safety coordinator for a construction company was married to an expediter for the company. The expediter suffered a work-related injury and filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. The coordinator testified in her case and then later testified in a hearing on her petition to increase benefits. Following this, safety issues arose within the company that led the company to terminate the coordinator as part of a layoff. He sued under the ADA of 1990, alleging association discrimination and retaliation. The U.S. District Court, District of Maine granted summary judgment to the company.
The coordinator failed to establish that his testimony at his wife's workers' compensation hearing raised an inference that her disability was a determining factor in his termination. The court explained that the coordinator's claim was precluded because advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities implicates the ADA's retaliation, not association, provisions.
The coordinator also argued that the company's concern about workers' compensation costs and its mistreatment of injured workers showed animus toward individuals with disabilities and that his termination reflected that animus. This argument also failed because the court concluded it was about expense, not disability. Because there would be no expense to the company after settling his wife's claim, he could not establish discrimination.
The court rejected the coordinator's retaliation claim, finding that he did not engage in protected activity. He asserted that testifying in his wife's workers' compensation claim was protected, but the court disagreed. The company's participation in the claims was not an "act or practice made unlawful by the ADA." Although a complaint he made alleging the company failed to accommodate his wife was protected activity, he did not establish a causal link to his termination.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 7, 2011
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