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Employer within rights to fire bipolar worker with bad temper

Employer within rights to fire bipolar worker with bad temper

An automobile glass firm did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired a bipolar worker who repeatedly lost his temper in a dangerous workplace, says a federal appeals court, in upholding a lower court ruling.

Michael Waggoner, an employee of Nashville, Tennessee-based Carlex Glass America L.L.C., had been disciplined twice for violent outbursts while working for his plant’s previous owner, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Michael Waggoner v. Carlex Glass America L.L.C.

After the second incident in 2010, he was suspended but allowed to return to work under a “last chance” agreement. In April 2013, Mr. Waggoner screamed at a team leader for making a change to his break schedule. Then in September 2013, he had another confrontation with the team leader in which Mr. Waggoner allegedly not only verbally attacked him, but also threatened and physically pursed him.

Carlex terminated Mr. Waggoner in October 2013, citing a work rule against using abusive language toward co-workers. Mr. Waggoner filed suit in U.S. District Court in Nashville, charging disability discrimination, failure to provide an accommodation, retaliation and a hostile work environment.

The District Court granted Carlex summary judgment dismissing the case, which a three-judge appellate court panel upheld after Mr. Waggoner appealed to the 6th Circuit. 

Mr. Waggoner charged that two nondisabled employees had received more favorable treatment.
He said in one case, a co-worker had showed signs of being under the influence of drugs at work, while in another the team leader had made a racially insensitive remark to a black worker.

“Carlex may have concluded that Waggoner’s misconduct was more serious than either” of these other two workers’, said the ruling. “As Waggoner testified, the Carlex plant is a ’dangerous workplace’ with sharp glass, hot furnaces and moving machinery.

“In that environment, Waggoner’s outbursts may have posed a greater workplace safety” than one worker’s alleged drug-induced lethargy or the other’s racial insensitivity, said the ruling.

Furthermore, neither of the other two employees “had a history of infractions like Waggoner, who was fired after four separate incidents in which he verbally attacked or physically pursued co-workers in a fit or rage,” said the ruling. 

Nor did either of those either sign or violate a last-chance agreement, said the ruling, which dismissed Mr. Waggoner’s disability discrimination charge, as well as the other charges.




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