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ADA Does Not Protect Disability Related Outburst

Tony Kassa, a veteran of the Armed Services, has been treated for a variety of psychiatric disorders including “Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, and Alcohol Abuse.” Synovus hired him to work as a Network Support Analyst during the night shift. While completing his training, Mr. Kassa disclosed to his supervisor that he sometimes would get angry or upset; she said that he could take breaks when he needed. A year into his job, the company outsourced his functions but decided to retain Mr. Kassa as a result of his strong work performance. He was transferred to a new position that would require he interact with customers on the phone. Mr. Kassa did let the new supervisors and HR know that he would likely end up losing his temper on the phone. He received a performance review indicating that he was weak on his team performance and received a written warning for some “rude and unprofessional” communications with co-workers. It culminated in a call from a female customer, who Mr. Kassa told “Nothing personal, I hate working with women.” The woman complained and Mr. Kassa was fired. He sued for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A federal district court considered whether to allow the case to go forward. Mr. Kassa’s assertion that he was disabled and qualified for the job within the meaning of the ADA was accepted. In this case, the question was whether he had been discriminated against because of his disability. Mr. Kassa argued that his outburst to the female customer was a result of his emotional disorders. The court stated that even if his statement was related to his disorders, it was “not convinced that the ADA requires an employer to maintain indefinitely an employee who is rude and unprofessional to his coworkers and who tells a female coworker that he hates working with women.”Unpublished precedent in the Eleventh Circuit suggested that misconduct related to a disability was not protected as a disability. Mr. Kassa also lost on the issue of whether Synovus was required to accommodate him under the circumstances. Answering customer calls was undisputedly an essential function and the employer was not required to eliminate it as an accommodation.