In a case handled by our firm, a Lafayette-based global catering and life support client was sued by an employee based in Dubai for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The jury unanimously found that the employer (1) did not discriminate against the plaintiff because of a disability or (2) retaliate against him because he raised a complaint regarding the alleged discrimination.
The plaintiff had a written contract of employment with a one-year term that automatically renewed if he was not terminated. Upon the contract expiration date, the employer advised plaintiff that the contract would not be renewed for a successive term.
Plaintiff, an Army veteran, suffered from PTSD following his military service and deployment in Iraq. He claimed defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his PTSD, which he claimed as a mental health disability. Plaintiff further claimed that defendant retaliated against him after he complained to his direct supervisor and the head of human resources about the alleged discrimination. To support his case, plaintiff claimed he was not disciplined before his termination and did not receive negative performance reviews during employment. Significant pre-trial motion practice occurred and framed the issues for trial in two ways.
First, the defense learned of actions taken by plaintiff following the termination of his employment that would have provided a legitimate basis for termination had the actions been discovered before he was terminated. The defense argued that evidence of such “after-acquired” misconduct was relevant to credibility and independently relevant to calculate backpay that plaintiff sought, citing McKennon v. Nashville Banner Pub. Co. and McClung v. Hajek. Over defendant’s objection, the Trial Court excluded the evidence as highly prejudicial, instead finding that back pay was an equitable remedy to be decided by the Court in a subsequent evidentiary hearing related to the issue of back pay.
Second, the defense argued that non-certified medical record evidence submitted by plaintiff was hearsay and thus inadmissible to prove a disability. The Court agreed with the defendant and issued a limiting instruction that the jury was not to consider uncertified medical records for the truth of the matter asserted.
At trial, our client presented ample evidence of plaintiff’s performance deficiencies with respect to the vetting of vendors, which jeopardized the employer’s government contracts and the jobs of other employees. The majority of plaintiff’s performance issues arose in Dubai, plaintiff’s key area of oversight. Therefore, it was unbelievable that he would not know of, or take responsibility for, those performance deficiencies. In addition, the language of the written employment contract allowed for non-renewal of the contract. In a unanimous verdict as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 48, the jury ultimately found that although the plaintiff proved he suffered a disability, he failed to prove discrimination or retaliation under the Act.
Staples v. Taylor International Services, Inc., et al., 6:20-cv-00192-RRS-CBW.
McKennon v. Nashville Banner Pub. Co., 513 U.S. 352, 361–62, 115 S. Ct. 879, 886, 130 L. Ed. 2d 852 (1995).
McClung v. Hajek, 79 F.3d 1145 (5th Cir. 1996).