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Fired employee’s ADA suit reinstated

Americans with Disabilities Act

A federal appeals court has reinstated an Americans with Disabilities Act claim filed by the fired employee of a restoration firm, stating he had provided enough evidence to indicate his firm regarded him as disabled.

Jonathan C. Baum began work as a scheduler for Louisville, Kentucky-based Metro Restoration Services Inc., which repairs damages after catastrophic events such as storms and fires, in 2013, according to Thursday’s ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Jonathan C. Baum v. Metro Restoration Services.

Mr. Baum began having heart problems in 2014, according to the ruling. Over the course of several months, he went to the emergency room fearing he had had a heart attack, had a CAT scan, had a heart catheter implanted, had an echocardiogram and wore a heart monitor for more than a month. During this time, he occasionally missed work for medical tests and treatments and sometimes worked remotely, according to the ruling.

In 2015, he worked remotely to coordinate Metros crews when severe weather hit, and was fired the next week, with the company’s owner telling him it was because of his health issues and doctors’ appointments.

Mr. Baum filed suit against the company under the ADA and Kentucky, law, charging he was fired both because he was disabled, and because the company regarded him as disabled. The U.S. District Court in Louisville granted the company’s motions to dismiss the case.

On appeal, a unanimous three-judge panel upheld the lower court’s dismissal of Mr. Baum’s claim he was dismissed under the ADA because of an actual disability. “Because Baum failed to disclose his doctor- or anyone else with specialized medical knowledge — as an expert witness, he lacks the evidence he needs. And without that evidence, he hasn’t created a factual issue over whether he is actually disabled,” said the ruling.

However, the court reinstated Mr. Baum’s claim that he was perceived as disabled. Mr. Baum argued a jury could find that Metro fired him because the owner thought he was disabled, said the ruling. For support, he relied on the owner’s knowledge of the care he had received as well as the owner stating the reason for firing him was his health issue and doctor’s appointments, according to the ruling.

“Metro would have us ignore that evidence,” stating he lost his job because of “excessive absenteeism and failure to perform his job duties,” the ruling said.

“This we cannot do,“ said the ruling. The owner’s word versus Mr. Baum’s “creates a classic credibility dispute and ’determining the credibility of witnesses is a task for the jury,’” said the ruling, in quoting an earlier decision and reinstating the perceived disability claim.

The attorneys in the case could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Jan 31, a federal appeals court reversed a lower court opinion and held a terminated 28-year medical center employee can pursue her ADA claim in a case filed on her behalf by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

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