A contractor for the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be facing a trial by jury after an appeals court reversed a lower court's summary judgment. The privatively-owned corporation will be defending itself against a combined age and disability discrimination suit for refusing to hire an experienced and well-recommended 56-year-old applicant whose wife had cancer. The company had instead hired a 35-year-old applicant with no prior company experience for an open position at a Texas facility.
The non-hired applicant, who was a former scheduler and planner for the company, was recommended for the position by both a former supervisor and the hiring manager for the facility. The facility's director, however, felt that the applicant should not be hired because of his age and the fact that the man's wife had cancer. The director went as far as threatening the hiring manager at the facility with an "insubordination" disciplinary action relating to the recommendation of the older man for the job.
The facility director's alleged assumption that the fact of the man's wife having cancer would interfere with his ability to do his job represents a potential violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA not only prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, it also protects individuals who have an association with people with disabilities, such as in the case of the applicant's wife. The appeals court noted that the facility director made statements regarding the issue to the company CEO and HR Director, both by email and verbally, which were discriminatory in nature.
The court concluded that, but for the applicant's age and/or his wife's disabled condition, he would have been hired for the open position for which he was qualified. The case was returned to the lower court for a trial by jury. Individuals in Texas or elsewhere who believe that they have been the victim of discrimination because of their age or due to a disability -- either theirs or someone they are closely associated with -- will find it in their best interests to team up with those who possess a strong and experienced grasp of the applicable labor laws.
Source: Source: jjkeller.com, "Fifth Circuit rules for the EEOC in age and disability discrimination lawsuit," Aug. 1, 2013