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Unaware of medical condition, employer defeats discrimination claim

hexagonA company could not be held liable for disability discrimination when it was not aware of the medical condition of a former employee who brought suit, a U.S. District Court judge in Rhode Island has held.

The plaintiff, David Saad, began working for defendant Hexagon Metrology in March 2015 as an assistant marketing manager. Prior to assuming the position, he passed a pre-employment physical and drug test performed by Concentra Health Services.

Saad’s new job did not get off to a great start, however, and he was soon placed on a performance plan with several “action areas” identified as needing attention.

On June 16, Hexagon’s manager of health and well-being learned from Concentra that Saad suffered from chronic pain and had requested an increase in his OxyContin dosage. That day, the manager met with Saad and asked if he required an accommodation for his condition. He replied in the negative.

Meanwhile, several days after the June 15 deadline for improvements specified in Saad’s performance plan, Hexagon’s directors of marketing and human resources met with him to discuss his poor job performance, as well as reports that he had made disparaging remarks about management to other employees. Although Saad denied those accusations, the directors decided to terminate him effective June 22.

The directors had not been made aware of Saad’s medical condition and OxyContin use, which proved pivotal to the outcome in Saad’s lawsuit alleging disability discrimination.

“Mr. Saad fails to establish a prima facie case of discrimination because … the two individuals who decided to terminate Mr. Saad were unaware of Mr. Saad’s medical condition when he was terminated,” Judge John J. McConnell Jr. wrote.

Further, even if a prima facie case could be made, Hexagon had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason to terminate Saad.

“The record here is replete with facts establishing that Mr. Saad’s job performance failed to meet Hexagon’s expectations and he did not perform his work satisfactorily,” the judge continued.

The plaintiff’s failure to accommodate claim also came up short in light of the fact that he was asked if he required an accommodation immediately after Hexagon learned of his disability.

Finally, McConnell rejected the plaintiff’s contention that Concentra initially denied him reasonable accommodations and that Hexagon was liable for Contentra’s alleged acts and omissions on the theory that the health care company was acting as Hexagon’s agent.

“There is nothing in the record here to prove that Hexagon had control over Concentra’s pre-employment physical and drug testing of Mr. Saad,” he concluded in granting both companies’ motions for summary judgment.

The 11-page decision is Saad v. Hexagon Metrology, Inc. The full text of the ruling can be found here.

Joseph R. Daigle of Providence was the attorney for Saad. Timothy C. Cavazza and Meghan E. Siket of Whelan, Corrente & Flanders counseled Hexagon, and Barton Gilman’s John J. Barton and Kristen M. Whittle represented third-party defendant Concentra.

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