4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
In this ADA discrimination action brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the district court wrongly granted summary judgment to the defendant employer.
The EEOC claimed that the employer violated the ADA by requiring its longtime employee, an editor of the internal employee newsletter, to undergo a work-related medical exam and then wrongfully discharging her on the basis of her disability. Since birth, the employee has suffered from a condition that limits her mobility and causes her to fall relatively often.
The record contains evidence supporting the EEOC’s position that navigating the employer’s various campuses to conduct in-person interviews, take photographs, and attend company events was not actually essential to the employee’s job. The company’s own written job description makes no mention of navigating to and from company events or conducting in-person interviews. And the employee testified that although she collected better content by attending company events and conducting in-person interviews, she did not think that either was “necessarily” a requirement of her job. The EEOC produced evidence that she was able to conduct interviews and collect other forms of content over the phone. Since the EEOC has produced more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of its position, the question is one for the jury, and summary judgment was improper.
Summary judgment would be improper even if it were beyond dispute that navigating to and within the employer’s campuses was an essential function of the job. In the context of the employee’s 30-year history, a reasonable jury could conclude it wasn’t reasonable to believe that she had become a direct threat to herself on the job simply because she’d fallen multiple times recently, and her manager thought she looked groggy and out of breath.
As to the employee’s wrongful discharge, the district court’s grant of summary judgment assumed that navigating to and within the employer’s campuses was essential to the job and that the medical exam was lawful. Because the court cannot affirm on the basis of the district court’s reasoning, summary judgment as to wrongful discharge must also be reversed.
Reversed and remanded.
Supreme Court of Virginia
Evidence supported the inference that the defendant railroad corporation’s negligence played a part however, small, in causing the employee to fall and be injured. But the evidence may also have been sufficient to support an inference that the employee’s fall resulted from causes unrelated to the defendant’s negligence. Under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, as opposed to common-law tort actions, that juxtaposition created a jury issue as to which inference should be drawn.
Armed with a jury verdict in his favor, approved by the trial court, the plaintiff is entitled to have the evidence, and all the inferences that may reasonably be drawn from it, viewed in the light most favorable to him. He occupies the most favored position known to the law.
Affirmed by 4-3 majority. Justice McCullough wrote a dissenting opinion.
The defendant’s five-year sentence for the violation of Code § 18.2-53.1 exceeds the sentence that may be imposed. Therefore, it is void ab initio.
The defendant was convicted of robbery under Code § 18.2-58, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in violation of Code § 18.2-53.1, and possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of Code § 18.2-308.2. He was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment for robbery, five years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and five years for possession of a firearm by a felon. But § 18.2-53.1 provides a maximum three-year sentence for a first conviction.
Reversed and remanded for entry of a new sentence of three years’ confinement.
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