Friday, September 18, 2015

Court Throws Out Teacher’s Disability and Race Discrimination Claims, But FMLA Claim Survives

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of the employer in an employment discrimination case alleging disability and race discrimination in violation of the federal laws. In Preddie v. Bartholomew Cons. School Corp., the Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court did not err in granting defendant-employer's motion for summary judgment in ADA and Title VII action alleging that defendant terminated plaintiff from his teaching position on account of his disability and race. The Seventh Circuit allowed the plaintiff’s FMLA claim to proceed to trial. 

Plaintiff, Terrence Preddie is African-American and  worked as a fifth-grade teacher at Columbus Signature Academy which is  part of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation. (“BCSC”). During the 2010-11 school year, after Mr. Preddie was absent 23 times, the BCSC did not renew his contract. Preddie is diabetic and his son suffers from sickle cell anemia. 

Following the non-renewal of his contract, Plaintiff filed suit against the BCSC alleging claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Family Medical Leave Act, (“FMLA”).

After considering all the evidence, the Court of Appeals ruled that Plaintiff failed to show that he made any accommodation request for purposes of establishing viable ADA claim and could not otherwise establish that he was "qualified individual" for coverage under ADA, where his attendance problems precluded him from performing essential functions of his job. Plaintiff also failed to put forward any evidence to support a retaliation claim under ADA, where his periodic requests for time off to attend to his health issues did not qualify as "protected activity" under ADA. 

In addition, plaintiff could not establish any race discrimination claim under Title VII, where plaintiff could not show either that he had performed his job up to defendant's expectations, or that defendant treated other teachers with similar attendance problems in more favorable fashion. 

However, the Court of Appeals did find there was sufficient evidence to support the plaintiff's FMLA claims where the employer’s stated reasons for its failure to renew plaintiff's teaching contract were related to plaintiff's absences that were caused by his FMLA-qualifying condition.