Can You Discipline a Disabled Employee?


Last month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision dismissing a discrimination claim brought by a former New York City firefighter suffering from Asperger’s syndrome who was terminated by the City for misconduct.  The City alleged that it fired the plaintiff for insubordination, use of profane language and threats to co-workers of serious bodily harm.  

The Court found that even if such behavior was the result of his Asperger’s, the ADA does not require employers to retain potentially violent employees, only to then be in jeopardy of negligence if such an employee were retained and hurt someone. 

This is good news for employers, who are often hesitant to take disciplinary measures against a disabled employee for fear that they will be charged with discrimination.  The lesson, as always, is to contemporaneously document decisions and the reasons behind them.  And, of course, check with legal counsel if you have any questions about disciplinary decisions.