Discrimination • Disability Discrimination • Hiring/Firing • Americans with Disabilities Act

Willis v. Norristown Area Sch. Dist., PICS Case No. 14-0345 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 20, 2014) DuBois, J. (18 pages).

Plaintiff did not show that being fired as a teacher by defendant for making inappropriate comments to students was discriminatory under the ADA or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. Plaintiff also did not show that he had requested accommodation for his disability of severe depression before the conduct which precipitated his firing. Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted.

Plaintiff was disciplined on several occasions for making inappropriate comments to students and was directed to undergo counseling. He was transferred to another school and later attempted suicide. Plaintiff told the principal of the school that he was going through a divorce and was on prescription medications for his nerves and stress. Following hospitalization for his depression, plaintiff returned to work and only requested three days of overlap with the substitute teacher. He was fired a few weeks later.

Plaintiff made a claim of disparate treatment in that defendant’s reason for his termination was pretextual based on his disability but plaintiff did not produce sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to so find. Defendant denied knowledge of plaintiff’s disability and stated that the reason for firing plaintiff was plaintiff’s conduct in making inappropriate statements to students. The court found no evidence that the reasons for plaintiff’s termination were a fabrication or that discrimination was involved.

Plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate claim failed because plaintiff did not ask for an accommodation until after the conduct occurred for which he was fired and such accommodation would have required defendant to excuse plaintiff’s previous misconduct and allow him back in the classroom. The court held that plaintiff failed to raise a genuine dispute as to any material fact and defendant was entitled to summary judgment.