August 24, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Petitioner Established Issue of Material Fact Present in ADA Violation Claim; Summary Judgment Not Appropriate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Carter v. Pathfinder Energy Services, Inc. on Thursday, November 3, 2011.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision. Petitioner began working as a directional driller for Respondent employer in 2004. Two years later, after his declining health had caused a reduction in his workload, Respondent fired Petitioner for “’gross misconduct’ based primarily on an altercation that he had had with a coworker and his language and attitude during a conversation with his supervisor.” Petitioner then sued Respondent, alleging that his employer had violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). He also alleged that Respondent had breached his implied-in-fact employment contract. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondent on all three claims.

The Court agreed with the district court’s grant of summary judgment on all issues except for the alleged ADA violation. For the ADA claim, Petitioner “must show that, at the time he was fired, (1) he was a disabled person as defined by the ADA; (2) he was qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation, to perform the essential functions of his job; and (3) he was fired because of his disability.” The Court was convinced that Petitioner has established that a genuine dispute of material fact exists as to all three elements to allow the claim to survive a motion for summary judgment.

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