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Discrimination / February 27, 2016

Disability Discrimination Does Not Require Proof Of Animus Or Ill Will

Bailiff's Claim for Disability Discrimination

A county sheriff deputy (employee) brought a case against the county (employer) for disability discrimination based on the employer's decision to remove him from his job as a bailiff and to place him on an unpaid leave of absence.

The employer incorrectly believed that the employee could not safely perform his duties as a bailiff with his disability even with reasonable accommodation.

Incorrect Jury Instruction on Discriminatory Intent

The trial court instructed the jury that the employee needed to "prove that the actions taken by the employer were done with the intent to discriminate," which the trial court equated with "animus."

That jury instruction was critical in this case because the jury ultimately found that the employer did not treat the employee as having a physical disability "in order to discriminate" against the employee, i.e. the jury did not find that there was enough evidence to prove the employer's discriminatory intent.

"Substantial-Motivating-Reason" Test

The Court of Appeal held that the trial court's instruction to the jury about "discriminatory intent" was incorrect.  The Court of Appeal confirmed that the employee need only show that the employee's disability was "a substantial motivating reason" for the employer's decision to subject the employee to an adverse employment action. 

Interestingly, the Court of Appeal explained that the term "'animus' is an imprecise term that can cause confusion when used in disability discrimination cases with direct evidence that the employer's motive for taking an adverse employment decision was the plaintiff's actual or perceived disability." 

Have You Suffered Disability Discrimination?

If your employer has discriminated against you based on your actual or perceived disability and/or medical condition, Contact Sani Law today to schedule a free consultation.  We will aggressively protect your rights against employers that fail to follow the law.

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