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A federal appeals court has reinstated a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by an inflight crew member against JetBlue Airways Inc., stating she has successfully argued she was disabled and may have been fired because of it.
Shari Dooley was terminated by JetBlue in September 2013 because she had allegedly violated company policy regarding attendance or dependability, according to court papers in Shari Dooley v. JetBlue Airways Corp.
Ms. Dooley filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York in June 2014, alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other charges. The court dismissed the case and Ms. Dooley appealed.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York reinstated Ms. Dooley’s ADA claim on Friday. Ms. Dooley, who said she had suffered a fracture and has nerve damage, has plausibly claimed she was disabled, said the ruling.
The circumstances of her termination also raise an inference of discrimination, said the appeals court. JetBlue ordinarily follows a progressive discipline policy regarding dependability that includes a multistep process, but Ms. Dooley was not afforded any of these steps, said the ruling.
“When coupled with the closeness in time between the injury that caused her alleged disability and JetBlue’s initiation of the process that ultimately resulted in her firing (alleging that Dooley was ‘suspended without pay pending an investigation of dependability’ approximately two months after she was injured and fired approximately one-and-a-half months thereafter) these allegations ‘give plausible support to a minimal inference of discriminatory motivation,’” said the court in quoting an earlier ruling.
The appeals court did affirm the District Court’s dismissal of several other charges, including a failure to accommodate under the ADA and retaliation and discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In August, an appeals court reinstated an ADA discrimination charge in a case where a company official allegedly sought reasons to fire a worker after he had already decided to terminate her because of her disability.
In a case the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider, United Airlines Inc. has reached a $1 million settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a case that involved the issue of accommodating disabled employees.