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Sixth Circuit remands age discrimination case to district court

In some cases, Florida employees who are terminated after taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act may find that they are facing discrimination for other reasons besides retaliation for the time off. A Tennessee court will be hearing a case involving a home economics teacher who was let go during FMLA leave. The teacher said the school violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and was also guilty of age discrimination.

The teacher based this on an email received from the principal as well as comments the principal made to others about the teacher’s health. The teacher had a hip injury, and the principal’s email said that the teacher might be unable to teach using a wheelchair based on the difficulty another employee had.

The school district claimed the position was being eliminated due to budget cuts. However, the teacher filed a complaint of age and disability discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as a lawsuit. The school did plausibly defend its need for budget cuts, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that the evidence was sufficient to support the man’s claims. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee will decide whether the email and other comments make a case for disability discrimination.

Most employers are obliged to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee. An employee who is facing discrimination on the basis of disability may want to get legal assistance. A consultation with an attorney might be a good idea even if the employer has an internal system for reporting discrimination.

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