A former in-house attorney at cable TV giant Discovery Communications LLC has lost a federal appeal in her claim that she was unjustly fired because of a sleeping disorder.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit threw out a case filed by Victoria Anderson, a former attorney for the program, production and talent division of Discovery Communications. The court found that Anderson, who complained of insomnia, did not suffer an impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act and was not fired because of it.
The appeals panel, upholding a lower court decision, said on Friday that the company’s reasons for firing her — including failure to keep proper time sheets and an inability to communicate accurately and truthfully with co-workers — were legitimate and not a pretext for discriminatory termination.
Anderson, now an associate at Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers in New York, said she had not seen the decision and declined to comment. Her attorney, Elaine Fitch at Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch in Washington, did not respond to requests for comment.
According to Anderson’s profile on the Gray Krauss website, she was director of legal affairs at Discovery and oversaw all programming on five of the company’s networks. The company’s channels include The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC . Anderson earlier had worked as a senior consultant to the Disney-ABC Television Group and was a securities attorney at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, according to her bio page.
The appeals court, in affirming the defendants’ summary judgment, rejected Anderson’s claims that her inability to sleep for more than four hours per night constituted an ADA-protected disability and that Discovery had provided "shifting justifications" for firing her in 2007. She sought $786,000 in back pay, the decision noted.
"Anderson repeatedly misrepresents the record evidence and parrots statements of law regarding pretext, but the record evidence simply does not support her contention," the court said in an unsigned decision. "From the time of Anderson’s actual discharge through litigation…Discovery’s explanation for its decision has been consistent: Anderson’s untrustworthiness and poor communication skills."
Representing Discovery was Amanda Haverstick, special counsel at Proskauer Rose. She did not respond to a request for comment.
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