EEOC v. McLeod Health Inc. (P)

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.

EEOC v. McLeod Health Inc. (P), No. 17-2335, Jan. 31, 2019. 4th Cir. (Floyd) from DSC at Florence (Hendricks).

Categories: 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Opinions, Published

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