Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Sep 03, 2015

No need to accommodate employee who threatened to kill co-workers

Disability 

An employee who made serious and credible threats to kill his supervisor and manager was not a “qualified individual” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Oregon’s disability discrimination statute according to the 9th Circuit Court.

An employee who made serious and credible threats to kill his supervisor and manager was not a “qualified individual” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Oregon’s disability discrimination statute according to the 9th Circuit Court. The employee threatened to “blow off the head” of the supervisor to one coworker, said he planned to “take out management” to another coworker, and that he wanted to bring a gun to work and “start shooting people” to a third coworker. The coworkers reported the statements to HR who immediately suspended the employee and reported the threats to police. The employee was later admitted to the hospital and then took a two month family leave. When the employee was released to return to work, the employer terminated him based on his previous threats. He sued claiming that his statements were symptoms of his severe stress which was a disability and the termination was a violation of the ADA and Oregon’s disability discrimination statute. The court noted that the Oregon law was to be interpreted consistently with the federal ADA and followed the decisions of numerous other circuits who had ruled that the employee was no longer a “qualified individual” once he made his extreme violent threats. (Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc., 9th Cir, July 2015)

Tips: The facts in this case were extreme. The court pointed out that rude or anti-social behavior is not sufficient to make an employee not “qualified”, but that employers are not required to “play dice with the lives of their workforce.” See our Legal Guides “Minimizing Workplace Violence” and “At a Glance: Americans with Disabilities Act” for further information. If you have a situation where an employee is violent or threatening violence, a suspension is a great first step, then contact your Vigilant staff attorney for assistance.

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