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Evidence of pretextual firing saves ADA claim

An employee who routinely received above-average performance reviews and received the highest rating possible in her last two reviews before her termination will have her discrimination case heard by a jury.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the dismissal of the employee’s discrimination claim after finding enough evidence to send the claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, to a jury.

The employer put forth several arguments, including that the plaintiff wasn’t meeting its legitimate business expectations, a discrimination inference was unwarranted and its reason for terminating her wasn’t pretextual.

The Fourth Circuit disagreed.

“There is a sufficient basis for a reasonable factfinder to conclude that [the employee] — despite being similarly-situated to the comparators — was treated differently,” Judge Roger L. Gregory wrote.

The judge added that a “reasonable factfinder could conclude that [the employer] searched for and found the single nugget of misconduct that allowed it to place [the employee] on an IAP and set the course for her termination.”

The July 22 opinion is Cowgill v. First Data Technologies Inc.

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