Case name: Gibbs v. ADS Alliance Data Systems, Inc., No. 10-2421-JWL (D. Kan. 07/28/11).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of Kansas denied summary judgment to an employer on a trainee's claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and workers' compensation.
What it means: In Kansas, negative statements by human resources staff about an employee's profitability after they learn of her need for surgery may support an ADA discrimination claim.
Summary: A recovery trainee suffered a work-related accident that caused her to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. She returned to work with restrictions. She requested a different light-duty assignment and a schedule change. The trainee notified managers that she needed surgeries related to her work-related injury, and they told her they reviewed her file and were "losing money" on her. The human resources manager allegedly observed the trainee soliciting employees to sell beauty products and terminated her. The trainee sued, alleging disability discrimination and workers' compensation retaliation.
The U.S. District Court, District of Kansas denied summary judgment to the employer.
The court concluded that the trainee met her burden of establishing a prima facie case of retaliation. The court said that in viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the trainee, the managers' statement that they were "losing money" on her was made in connection to her advising her supervisor that she needed surgery related to her workers' compensation injury. The statement was allegedly made a few weeks before her termination.
The employer claimed it terminated the trainee due to her violation of its solicitation policy. The trainee brought evidence of pretext because there was evidence that the manager did not honestly believe the trainee was in violation of the solicitation policy, Also, the manager acted contrary to the policy prescribing the appropriate disciplinary action.
The court also denied summary judgment to the employer on the trainee's disability discrimination claim, noting that the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 "lowered the bar" on the disability inquiry.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 30, 2011
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