Schwartz Hannum Wins On Appeal: Employer Did Not Commit Disability Discrimination, Rules First Circuit
Schwartz Hannum successfully represented an employer in a lawsuit by a former sales manager alleging disability discrimination under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B (“Chapter 151B”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Sara Goldsmith Schwartz and Jessica L. Herbster successfully argued that the plaintiff was lawfully discharged for failing to obtain a license required for his job after having received ample notice that his employment would be terminated if he failed to obtain the license.
In affirming summary judgment for the employer, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that the employer failed to provide a “reasonable accommodation” and to engage in the “interactive process,” as required by the disability laws. The requested accommodation, an opportunity to retake the examination, was found unreasonable because the request came too late – after the plaintiff knew his employment would be terminated for failure to perform an essential function of the job – and because there was no evidence that the plaintiff would have passed the examination if given another opportunity. The Court also found no evidence that prolonging the interactive process would have uncovered an accommodation enabling the plaintiff to perform the essential functions of his job. This appeals-level victory for the employer will be used as precedent in other federal-court cases involving similar issues.
Schwartz Hannum Wins Summary Judgment In Disability Case
Schwartz Hannum successfully represented a national insurance company in a lawsuit filed by a former sales manager alleging disability discrimination under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B (“Chapter 151B”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Schwartz Hannum attorneys Sara Goldsmith Schwartz and Jessica L. Herbster won judgment and dismissal of the former employee’s claims, avoiding the need to go to trial.
In this case, the plaintiff alleged that his former employer failed to accommodate his disability, a shoulder injury, and terminated his employment because of the disability. The Firm successfully demonstrated on behalf of the employer that plaintiff was discharged for failing to obtain a license required for his job despite having ample notice that his employment would be terminated if he failed to obtain the license.
As an initial matter, the United States District Court (Judge Ponsor) confirmed that the ADA Amendments Act (“ADAAA”), which plaintiff argued interprets the meaning of “disability” more broadly, does not apply retroactively to conduct that occurred prior to January 1, 2009. The Court was not persuaded by plaintiff’s argument that the ADAAA should apply in this case, because the employer allowed plaintiff to remain employed through January 31, 2009, given that the decision to deny him the requested accommodation and terminate his employment occurred prior to January 1, 2009. The Court added that even if the ADAAA did apply, the record did not support a finding of disability under either standard.
The Court further held that plaintiff was not a qualified individual with a disability under the meaning of the ADA and Chapter 151B because there was no evidence to demonstrate how his shoulder injury affected his ability to obtain the required license or otherwise rendered him unable to perform the essential functions of his job. The Court noted that plaintiff’s request for another opportunity to obtain the license was not a reasonable accommodation, because plaintiff had taken the test many times in the past and the prospect of him passing in the future was “entirely speculative” and “[u]nder the circumstances, it was not, as a matter of law, unreasonable for [the employer] to conclude that further effort would be futile.”
The plaintiff has appealed the case to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal is currently pending.
Schwartz Hannum PC Quickly Investigated And Resolved Allegations Of Sexual Abuse Against An Independent School Employee
When an independent school called with news that a former student was making “Penn State”-type allegations about a current employee, attorneys William E. Hannum III, Suzanne W. King and Arabela Thomas acted quickly to provide the school with both legal and practical advice about the myriad issues that confront a school in this sort of potentially explosive situation.
The Firm worked closely with the Head of School and the Board of Trustees to promptly develop a plan suited to both the school’s culture and the applicable legal requirements. The Firm advised the independent school about its mandatory reporting obligations, and the Firm’s attorneys assisted in completing the required reports on behalf of the school. In addition, a Firm partner conducted an independent, comprehensive investigation to assess the merits of the sexual abuse claims made by the former student, interviewing key witnesses and preparing a written report for the school’s Board of Trustees within a brief window.
Acting based on the Firm’s practical and legal advice and careful investigation, the independent school was able to quickly resolve the matter, and provide parents with the assurance that the school places student safety as its first priority.
The Firm’s attorneys have extensive experience in dealing with allegations of abuse, neglect and harassment and as a result, when dealing with such issues are able to provide efficient and cost-effective solutions to complex and highly sensitive problems.
Schwartz Hannum Successfully Protects Client’s Trade Secrets
The Firm successfully represented a biotechnology company and a senior manager of that company against a plaintiff who attempted to misappropriate their trade secrets and confidential information. After the plaintiff initiated legal action alleging that he was entitled to use certain confidential company information after the termination of his employment from the company, Schwartz Hannum worked closely with the company and senior manager to develop a counter-strategy to stop the plaintiff’s misappropriation. The strategy succeeded, as the Firm not only obtained a preliminary injunction in favor of the company, preventing the plaintiff’s misappropriation, but also the Firm successfully obtained a dismissal of all of the plaintiff’s claims – without having to go to trial.
The plaintiff, a former employee, alleged a breach of contract and defamation arising out of the termination of his employment at the company. In addition, the plaintiff claimed ownership of certain confidential company information. The plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the company from restricting his use of the company’s proprietary information.
Working closely with the company and senior management, the Firm filed a counterclaim on the company’s behalf alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and also filed a cross-motion for a preliminary injunction. Although both sides sought injunctive relief, Schwartz Hannum successfully defeated the plaintiff’s effort to retain access to the company’s proprietary information. On the strength of having swiftly obtained a preliminary injunction in favor of the company, the Firm successfully negotiated a token settlement, getting the case dismissed with prejudice. Attorneys for the biotechnology company and the senior manager were Suzanne W. King and Michelle-Kim Lee.
Schwartz Hannum gets all 19 claims dismissed without having to go to trial.
Schwartz Hannum successfully defended a leading international software and technology services company against all 19 counts of a pro se plaintiff’s complaint, including unlawful gender discrimination (under both federal and state law), retaliation, wrongful termination, fraud, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among others. The Firm was able to get all counts dismissed on summary judgment, avoiding the need for a trial.
The plaintiff alleged that he was subjected to unlawful gender discrimination by his female supervisor and to retaliation because he complained about his supervisor’s alleged conduct more than eight months prior to his termination. Schwartz Hannum successfully demonstrated that the plaintiff was not subjected to and could not prove gender discrimination – that instead, he was terminated by senior management because of his inappropriate behavior and hostile conduct.
Once the decision was handed down, the plaintiff appealed the case to both the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. (He initially filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was dismissed in under two (2) weeks.) The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against a manager and co-worker. Schwartz Hannum successfully represented the company in all of these matters, with all claims being dismissed. Attorney for the software and technology services company was William E. Hannum III.