Rare chance for employee to get to trial on discrimination claim
Last week, the Sixth Circuit overturned the Federal judge for the Western District of Michigan who had summarily dismissed the Plaintiff's equal protection and civil rights claim in Deleon v. Kalamazoo County Road Commission. The trial judge was particularly influenced by the fact that a lateral transfer which the Defendant offered to the Plaintiff was to a position that the Plaintiff had sought at an earlier date. The appellate judges found persuasive the Plaintiff's evidence that the Defendant was actually "setting him up to fail" and that the offered position did not carry the same raise and enhanced employment benefits that the Plaintiff anticipated when he had originally applied for the position. Therefore, the court concluded that he was entitled to have a jury hear his claim as there was a genuine issue of material fact with regard to whether he was improperly terminated.
The Defendant had terminated the Plaintiff after he sought leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, claiming a stress-related mental breakdown. He had earlier objected to his constant exposure to diesel fumes in his work location and the resulting chronic bronchitis that he suffered. The Court held that he was entitled to have a jury evaluate the facts of his termination and whether the employer's attempted accommodation was legitimate or pretextual.