Stembridge Taylor and Pierson Law’s Summary Judgment Win in ADA Case Affirmed by Eleventh Circuit
On June 29, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Northern District of Georgia’s grant of complete summary judgment in favor of Stembridge Taylor and Pierson Law’s client Midtown Neurology, P.C., dismissing a former employee’s claims of discrimination and retaliation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Plaintiff Aisha Change sued Midtown Neurology after her employment ended in October 2018, asserting claims of discrimination and retaliation under the ADA. At the time of her separation, the plaintiff had been employed by Midtown Neurology as the Botox Coordinator for less than three months and was absent 29 of 59 business days, mostly in relation to a pseudotumor cerebri with which she had been diagnosed a few months prior to her hire. The parties disputed how her employment ended – the plaintiff claimed she was told to resign or would be fired, while Midtown Neurology maintained that the plaintiff and her supervisor had agreed that she would resign in order to take care of her health. But after a year of litigation in the US District Court, attorneys Lisa Taylor and Holly Pierson successfully secured a final Order from District Judge Steve C. Jones, granting summary judgment to Midtown Neurology on all of the plaintiff’s claims.
The plaintiff appealed to the Eleventh Circuit on her retaliation claim only, arguing that because Midtown Neurology maintained it did not fire the plaintiff but instead she resigned, it was therefore precluded from offering a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for alleged termination. Thus, the central issue on appeal was whether an employer that denies terminating an employee can nevertheless meet its burden to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for a claimed termination. The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the District Court that it could, holding that the law “merely requires employers to produce evidence that would allow a factfinder to conclude that any alleged adverse employment action was not motivated by discrimination or retaliation” and not, as plaintiff argued, a reason that it actually relied on. Midtown Neurology met that burden by pointing to the undisputed evidence that the plaintiff had missed approximately half of the working days she’d been employed, which violated its attendance policies and placed a strain on the business.
We are thrilled for this result for our client and thank Midtown Neurology for trusting us with this fight. A copy of the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion can be accessed here.