Comments, investigation don't create inference of discriminatory intent
Case name: Teruggi v. CIT Group/Capital Finance, Inc. d/b/a CIT Rail, No. 11 C 216 (N.D. Ill. 03/30/12).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment to a company on an employee's disability discrimination claims.
What it means: According to this court, in the absence of direct evidence under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employee must offer circumstantial evidence from which an inference of discriminatory intent can be drawn.
Summary: An employee for a company that leased locomotive cars suffered a work-related injury that resulted in the amputation of a finger. After the injury, he was able to perform the functions of his job, but his speed and accuracy working on the computer decreased. He asked for a left-handed keyboard and an external hard drive for his computer. The company denied his request for the keyboard, but it permitted him to have the external hard drive. Later, the company alleged that the employee sent emails to other companies, some of which reportedly contained confidential information. Following an investigation, the employee was terminated. He sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois granted summary judgment to the company, finding that the employee could not demonstrate that the company had a discriminatory intent.
The employee challenged the company's reasons for his termination. His arguments pertained to the emails and the alleged brevity of the investigation. The court found that the company established that it instructed employees not disclose information, and the employee admitted that he did. Additionally, the employee submitted no evidence as to the usual length or depth of the company's investigations.
The court also explained that the employee did not submit evidence showing that his replacement did not have a disability. Further, the employee could not establish that a supervisor's "two or three" joking references about the employee being on medication for his hand were made with discriminatory intent.
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June 18, 2012
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