Plaintiff runs afoul of the “sin exceptions.” An employee of a defense contractor developed a gambling addiction. He failed to pay $30,000 in casino debts and was arrested for larceny. He failed to inform the company of the arrest, as required by company policy and government contract. When he finally came clean about the arrest and gambling issue, he was fired for failure to follow the policy. He sued for disability discrimination, claiming that major depression was his disability and gambling was a manifestation of that condition. The ADA contains exclusions for several conditions that Congress viewed as “improper or immoral.” Even if they are serious mental conditions, they are specifically placed outside the ADA’s requirements for reasonable accommodation or other protections. Compulsive gambling is one of these “sin exceptions.” The court rejected the “gambling as a manifestation of depression” plea as an unsubstantiated effort to work around the exception. It dismissed the case. Trammell v. Raytheon Missile Systems (N.D. Ariz., 2010).
Biased discipline is ruled discriminatory. An online charter school could not show valid grounds for firing an employee soon after it learned of her bipolar diagnosis. She was fired for insubordination after several minor rule violations over three weeks. However, the court found the timing of the discharge suspicious, occurring soon after the employer learned of the disability. Further, only two other employees had been discharged and both had a longer series of much more serious infractions and were given a much greater period to correct before being fired. The plaintiff’s unequal treatment in comparison with these others led to a conclusion of discrimination. Lagatta v. Penn. Cyper Charter School (W.D. Pa., 2010).
Bob Gregg, partner in Boardman Law Firm, shares his roundup of diversity-related legal issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.