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"Discrimination by association" claim is rejected.

Eugene Stansberry sued Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation after it terminated his employment as the supervisor of Air Wisconsin's Kalamazoo operation.  Stansberry's wife suffers from a rare and debilitating autoimmune disorder that is very expensive to treat.  She was effectively treated for several years through off-label infusions of the prescription Remicade.  When her condition worsened and the doctors recommended a resumption of this $1500.00 per week treatment regimen, the company's insurers rejected payment, and within months Stansberry was fired.

Stansberry filed suit alleging that the expensive medical care was the basis of his termination.  The Company raised several issues about the adequacy of his operation of the Kalamazoo air station and it appears from the record that Stansberry gave up his claim that expensive medical treatment played a role in the discharge. Stansberry was limited to arguing that he was terminated because the Defendants feared his wife's debilitating illness would impair the quality of his work.  The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of this claim, concluding that his work had already deteriorated (perhaps because of the partner's illness) and therefore the was a basis for his discharge.

In ancillary rulings, the Court noted that the employer owed no duty to accommodate Stansberry's wife's illness.  It also held that even if the manager who fired Stansberry initially lied about his actions, this did not establish that Wisconsin Air's reasons for discharge were pretextual.  All-in-all, at best Wisconsin Air doesn't present as a very supportive employer; at worst, it got away with defying the spirit of the law and managed to kick a long-term employee's family when they were down.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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