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Manager’s Lawsuit Defeated on Summary Judgment

A manager of our client, an international freight forwarding company, was selected for termination as part of a company-wide layoff.  The plaintiff was selected for termination because of his short time with the company, his supervisor’s ability to absorb his job duties and poor performance. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court against his former employer alleging six causes of action, for (1) wrongful termination; (2) disability discrimination; (3) failure to engage in the interactive process; (4) failure to accommodate disability; (5) religious discrimination; and (6) failure to reimburse business expenses. The plaintiff alleged that he was perceived to be disabled by his employer because of the obvious physical signs of his poor mental and physical condition. He contends that the employer failed to engage in the interactive process with him and to accommodate his disability and ultimately terminated him as a result of his disability. Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that once he disclosed that he was born in Tel Aviv, Israel to his supervisor, the supervisor began to discriminate against him on the basis of his religion. Finally, the plaintiff sought reimbursement of purported business expenses.

We moved for summary judgment arguing that at no point was our client aware of the plaintiff’s alleged disability. Further, we argued that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and consequently not entitled to any protections (i.e. reasonable accommodations) afforded to this protected class. As a result, the employer had no liability for plaintiff’s claims for disability discrimination, failure to engage in the interactive process or failure to accommodate. Additionally, we showed that the plaintiff never revealed his religious faith to any decision maker regarding the layoff. Consequently, without establishing that the decision maker had knowledge of the plaintiff’s religious beliefs, the plaintiff he could not satisfy his burden of proving that his faith was a substantial motivating factor in our client’s decision to include him in a company-wide layoff. Finally, we successfully argued that the plaintiff’s personal expenses incurred during a business trip were not reimbursable. The court thus awarded our client summary judgment on the plaintiff’s entire case.

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