Proving ADA Violations: Sufficient Evidence is Required for Discrimination Lawsuits

psychology_psychotherapy_531071-1024x768Discrimination in the workplace should never be accepted. If you feel that you have been discriminated against for age or disability reasons, the law allows you to seek damages. A lawsuit of that nature is not unlike others; proof and evidence are required to proceed with your claims. The following case out of New Orleans shows why sufficient evidence is required to proceed with a discrimination or hostile workplace claim.   

Dr. Gerald Lahoste is a tenured associate professor in the Psychology Department at the University of New Orleans (UNO) Psychology Department. Dr. Lahoste filed a lawsuit against the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College (LSU), asserting his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act were violated. Dr. Lahoste alleged LSU did not provide him with reasonable accommodations for his major depressive disorder. He argued he had been harassed and discriminated against, and his journal articles and grant had decreased due to his request for accommodations. 

LSU filed a motion for summary judgment, as they believed Dr. LaHoste could not prove discrimination or that a violation of Title VII. LSU also alleged that Dr. LaHoste failed to provide documentation regarding his diagnosis. Dr. LaHoste responded to the motion for summary judgment by arguing that LSU did not meet to discuss his condition. The trial court granted summary judgment for LSU, effectively ending his lawsuit. Dr. LaHoste appealed the trial court’s decision in hopes of overturning it.

In the appeal, he argued: (1) the trial court erred in finding he did not have enough evidence to show that he informed LSU of his disability, (2) the trial court erred in finding he did not give enough evidence that LSU knew of the limitations associated with his condition, and (3) the trial court erred in finding he failed to provide evidence to establish retaliatory action on the part of LSU. The court reviewed the motion de novo, meaning it did not give deference to the trial court. 

The Louisiana Court of Appeal Fourth Circuit deliberated whether Dr. LaHoste satisfied his evidentiary burden of proof that he (1) had a disability and (2) informed LSU of limitations occurring due to his disability. First, the appeals court reviewed the trial judge’s reasoning, which stated that employer knowledge of the limitations resulting from an employee’s disability is a material fact in determining whether discrimination has occurred. 

The court noted LSU asserted that it requested information relating to Dr. LaHoste’s condition and how it would affect his job performance. Because Dr. LaHoste did not inform LSU of his limitations, LSU did not know these limitations. As such, Dr. LaHoste did not meet his evidentiary burden to overcome a summary judgment claim. 

The Court looked at the correspondence between Dr. LaHoste and LSU. Dr. LaHoste failed to provide documentation from his physicians regarding his diagnosis and did not explain the functions he could not perform. In addition, he could not give a time frame for these limitations and needed to explain how accommodations would help him to do his job better. Dr. LaHoste also failed to note how he was discriminated against or retaliated against. 

Dr. LaHoste was charged with proving he (1) engaged in an activity protected by the ADA; (2) an adverse employment action occurred; and (3) a causal connection existed between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. The third element, a causal connection, can be established by showing one was fired, demoted, promoted, or a reduction in pay. While Dr. LaHoste did engage in a protected activity, he testified that none of the adverse employment actions had occurred, and the alleged retaliatory acts occurred before his diagnosis. Considering these factors, the appeals court affirmed the motion for summary judgment in favor of LSU.

The case above underscores the importance of providing enough evidence at the outset of your lawsuit. An experienced lawyer can guide you through this process. 


Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Gabriela Chilingarova 

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