Employee’s Discrimination Claim for Depression, Stress Barred for His Violent Threats
A metal casting company lawfully terminated an employee for his threats of violence to other employees, despite a claim that his depression/stress made him do it, the federal appeals court covering Oregon and Washington has ruled, upholding the dismissal of the employee’s disability discrimination lawsuit. Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc.
The employee made five specific threats to kill supervisors. These threats made him unqualified for his job as a welder, regardless of his disability, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held. The decision is a victory for common sense. The same court on three prior occasions has ruled against employers in similar disability-caused misconduct cases. However, the Mayo court said those cases were different, and gave employers a helpful rationale for future cases: “An essential function of almost every job is the ability to appropriately handle stress and interact with others.”
Employers, nonetheless, must tread lightly when disciplining an employee who claims a disability caused bad behavior or lack of performance. Every situation presents unique challenges.