For years we’ve been following legal developments on how employers deal with workers who attribute bad behavior to a disability. (We wrote about it here and here and here, for example.) Last summer, we wrote about the 9th Circuit’s decision in Weaving v. City of Hillsboro, involving the termination of a police sergeant for bullying and intimidation. Weaving, who blamed ADHD for his bad behavior, sued and recovered over $630,000 in damages.
The court of appeal reversed. The court distinguished between being able to interact with others (which is a major life activity) and being able “to get along with others” (which presumably is not). According to the court, “To hold otherwise would be to expose to potential ADA liability employers who take adverse employment actions against ill-tempered employees who create a hostile work environment for their colleagues.”
Weaving asked the Supreme Court to take the case and last month it declined to do so. As a result, the rules for when employers can discipline employees for misbehavior that they attribute to a disability remain unclear.
The best things that employers can do to protect themselves in these situations are:
- If there’s an identified disability, engage in a thorough, well-documented interactive process;
- Err on the side of protecting workers from bullying, threats, or worse, and
- If you’re in California, understand how the state interprets these rights more broadly than federal law does.