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Court dismisses retaliatory discharge claim arising out of Disability Civil Rights Act

Diane Booker had worked for Henry Ford Health Systems for 25 years without being disciplined.  Then, in 2005, she asked for time off for a medical appointment, and her supervisor initially granted it.  The supervisor then changed her mind and refused the time off; while Booker was writing a letter complaining to the regional administrator, and after she complained to her union representative, the supervisor backed down and granted the day off.  In the next 11 months, however, Booker was repeatedly written-up by the supervisor for tardiness, dress code violations, and other seemingly picayune "violations".  Ultimately, she was suspended 5 days with a "progressive discipline-future termination" warning, and then terminated when she over-reacted to a scolding from the supervisor by "becoming loud and argumentative." 

Booker sued, alleging that the supervisor contrived to create a disciplinary record to justify firing Booker, in retaliation for Booker's complaints about the supervisor's initial denial of her time off to see the doctor.  The Court evaluated the claim under the Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act, and concluded that Booker could not pursue her claim because she had not offered adequate proof that the supervisor fired her in retaliation:  instead the court created an artificial distinction and held that Booker was justifiably fired only for her over-reaction to the final scolding. 

This holding directly conflicts with a holding in one of our previous cases, Downey v. Charlevoix County Road Commission, where the Court noted that illegal discriminatory behavior is actionable if it drives the employee to a situation where he or she over-reacts or responds inappropriately.  Clearly, it was a question of fact for jurors to decide whether Booker was correct that Booker's supervisor had created an unreasonable disciplinary history in order to fire Booker for protecting her right to see a physician.

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