Does a plaintiff have to prove that an employer had a particular animus toward employees with disabilities to sustain a disability discrimination claim? "No" answered the Sixth Circuit in EEOC v Dolgencorp LLC. We discussed this case in an earlier post, Failure to Provide a Reasonable Accomodation is Direct Evidence of Disability Discrimination.
The company, Dollar General, fired Linda Atkins after it refused to consider her request for a reasonable accommodation -- keeping some orange juice near her work station to ward off any hypoglycemic emergency caused by her diabetes. A jury awarded Atkins $27,565 in back pay and $250,000 in compensatory damages.
One argument raised on appeal by Dollar General was that the verdict erred and "that the verdict cannot stand because Atkins never produced evidence of animus towards the disabled." This went nowhere:
the [Americans With Disabilities] Act speaks in terms of causation, not animus. An employer violates the ADA whenever it discharges an employee "on the basis of disability" (a necessary requirement for liability), not only when it harbors ill will (a sufficient way of establishing liability). Imagine a company that fired a visually impaired employee to save itself the minimal expense of buying special software for her. Without more, that would constitute termination "on the basis of disability," even if all of the evidence showed that cost-savings, not animus towards the blind, motivated the company.
For additional discussion of this case: Denial of a Reasonable Accommodation of a Disability is Disability Discrimination.