LCW Partner James Oldendorph And Associates Aleena Hashmi And Lee Heard Win Dismissal Of Discrimination And Failure To Accommodate Lawsuit

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Mar 06, 2023

An LCW team led by Partner James Oldendorph and Associates Aleena Hashmi and Lee Heard won the dismissal of a lawsuit against a city client. A fire inspector had knee replacement surgery in November 2016.  On April 21, 2017, he was cleared to work with no work restrictions. His city employer scheduled a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) to determine whether he could safely work.

In April 2017, the inspector returned to light duty at his same salary, seniority, and benefits.  In May 2017, the FCE confirmed the inspector did not need any work restrictions or accommodations.  The inspector’s treating physician concurred with the FCE.

In June 2017, the inspector returned to work without any restrictions, signed a Full Duty Work agreement confirming he needed no accommodations and would tell his supervisor immediately if he: suspected he might need accommodations in the future; or believed any job activity was unsafe or painful; or needed additional leave.

In October 2021, the inspector sued the city alleging age and disability discrimination and failure to accommodate.  The inspector alleged that his medical leave was extended in 2017 because no light-duty work was available while he was awaiting the results of the FCE and that his workload doubled when he returned.  He also alleged that throughout his tenure his coworkers repeatedly asked him when he was going to retire.  The inspector claimed these actions led to his constructive discharge.

The Court granted the city’s Motion for Summary Judgment dismissing all of the inspector’s claims.  The Court found no substantial evidence of any discriminatory animus or any adverse employment actions.

First, the Court found that the inspector’s failure to accommodate the claim was time-barred by the three-year statute of limitations.  The Court also rejected the inspector’s claims that the City failed to engage in the interactive process and failed to accommodate him by reducing his double workload.  The inspector admitted that due to technical computer issues he was not expected to, and did not actually complete a double workload.  Nor did the inspector ever complain about it.  The inspector also failed to identify anyone to whom he made accommodation requests, or that he ever asked his supervisor for an accommodation as required by his Full Duty Work agreement.

Second, the Court noted that the co-worker’s comments and questions about retirement age are commonplace.  The inspector admitted there was a similar dynamic in the City, and that his coworkers frequently discussed how retirement was a perk.  The Court further noted that none of the alleged comments amounted to adverse actions in and of themselves, nor did they lead to or relate to any City-imposed adverse employment actions.

Finally, the inspector also failed to prove that his working conditions were so intolerable, aggravated, or severe to force a reasonable person to retire.

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