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Court rejects the disability claim of fired worker

Most employers in Pennsylvania and around the country are required to follow the provisions of federal labor laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act. Other laws that place restrictions on employers include the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and it is not unheard of for workers to cite the protections provided by these laws when faced with disciplinary action or termination. When claims of this type are not backed up by compelling supporting evidence, the courts have generally given the benefit of the doubt to employers.

This was demonstrated on Jan. 18 when a federal appeals court affirmed a lower court's ruling in favor of an employer in just such a case. The employee involved worked for a major telephone company as a customer services representative. She also suffers from Type 1 diabetes, and she had asked for, and been granted, time off in the past under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The lower court took this into account when it ruled that the employer involved had not acted unreasonably by firing the worker after she hung up on two customers.

The worker blamed the hang-ups on a diabetic episode brought on by low blood sugar levels, but she was unable to provide much in the way of evidence to support her claim. The appeals court ruled that an employer's good faith belief that misconduct occurred is generally sufficient to overcome discrimination claims in these cases even if their belief is later found to be mistaken.

Attorneys with a background in employment harassment and discrimination cases may urge their clients not to make allegations that are false or cannot be corroborated. They could also advise workers who are being treated unfairly to keep an accurate record of discriminatory incidents and list the names of any colleagues who may have witnessed them taking place. Business documentation of any kind that contains offensive language or images or appears to be at odds with federal or state labor laws should also be retained.

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