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Dismissal of sheet metal worker's bias, retaliation claim upheld

Dismissal of sheet metal worker's bias, retaliation claim upheld

An appeals court has upheld dismissal of a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a worker in a sheet metal fabrication company in Pine City, Minnesota.

Adam Breaux, who worked at Product Fabricators Inc. as a turret operator, was transferred to a supervisory position in September 2008 because of a workplace injury to his right shoulder, according to Friday's ruling by the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Adam Breaux v. Product Fabricators, Inc.; M&M Manufacturing Inc., as successor.

Meanwhile, beginning in May or June 2009, Mr. Breaux's management performance was suffering, and his department was performing in an “untimely, manner,” which was affecting other departments at Product Fabricators. Product Fabricators was subsequently taken over by Fort Worth, Texas-based M&M Manufacturing Inc., according to the ruling

In August 2009, Mr. Breaux told his supervisor his left shoulder was causing him pain similar to the pain he felt in his right shoulder, and that he was going to see his doctor to discuss surgery on his right shoulder. Mr. Breaux was terminated on Sept. 1, 2009.

The EEOC filed suit against the company charging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including retaliation. A U.S. District Court granted PFI and M&M summary judgment dismissing the case, and the EEOC and Mr. Breaux appealed.

A three-judge panel unanimously upheld the case's dismissal. Mr. Breaux asserts the temporal proximity between his termination on Sept. 1, 2009 and his August 2009 complaints regarding injures of his left shoulder and potential surgery on his right shoulder indicate causation, said the ruling.

But, “the year-long time period that PFI accommodated Breaux's injury negates causation; and the casual, somewhat ambiguous conversation that took place in August 2009, does not establish a causal connection between Breaux's termination and his disability,” said the ruling.

While Mr. Breaux asserts he periodically requested a reasonable accommodation for his injury, the evidence does not indicate he made a specific request, said the ruling also, in dismissing his disability claims.

The court also upheld dismissal of Mr. Breaux's retaliation claims, agreeing with the District Court that “the evidence did not indicate that Breaux engaged in the protected activity of requesting an accommodation.”

In June, a federal district judge dismissed an EEOC lawsuit filed on behalf of a breast cancer survivor who was fired from her law firm job because she could not lift more than 20 pounds.

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