For more information please call  800.727.2766


Good Performance and Health Questions Suggest Pretext

Ebonie Batson worked for The Salvation Army as an auditor for over ten years. During that time, she received promotions, positive performance reviews and was ultimately promoted to audit manager. In 2010, she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and requested an accommodation meeting. She asked that she be able to telecommute sometimes and to have her travel schedule adjusted. Her request was denied. In 2013, she took a two-week FMLA leave and some intermittent leave after that as a result of her MS. Her position was eliminated while she was on FMLA leave. She was asked to apply and interview for her old position. During the interview process, she was asked many times about her doctor’s appointments and her ability to travel. Ms. Batson responded that she should not be asked about her medical condition. The Salvation Army did not hire Ms. Batson for her old position, citing her interview and “performance issues.” She was out of a job.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed Ms. Batson’s lawsuit for disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The primary issue for the circuit court was whether Ms. Batson had successfully rebutted the employer’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for failing to hire her for her old position. The court concluded that Ms. Batson had enough to suggest that the reason was pretextual. The decisionmaker’s emails prior to the interview reflected a desire not to hire Ms. Batson and expressed concerns about Ms. Batson’s health. The many questions about Ms. Batson’s health disclosed that the MS was an issue for the Salvation Army. Questions about giving enough notice for her doctor’s visits and whether she could meet the demanding travel requirements of the job were suspect. The decision maker also claimed that Ms. Batson was argumentative while another individual present testified that she was not. Moreover, Ms. Batson’s historically good performance reviews were suggested that refusing to hire her for work issues was pretextual. Ms. Batson’s claims will proceed to a jury.