In a recent decision, the Western District of Texas granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment in a case alleging discrimination based on gender (male), age (age 55), race (Hispanic) and disability (morbid obesity). In his EEOC complaint, the employee also alleged national origin. As I have mentioned here before, it is very unwise to allege more than one basis of discrimination. It is not impossible that persons would discriminate based on multiple reasons, but it does look like the employee is throwing everything out there that might work. Lawsuits, especially in federal court, need to be based on more than “maybe” reasons. In Beltran v. Union Pacific RR. Co., No. 15-CV-1019 (W.D. Tex. 2017), the plaintiff argued age, national origin (Hispanic, and disability when it responded to the employer’s motion for summary judgment. He argued he had reported racial slurs at work in the past, but provided no details. He pointed out the obvious fact that he was replaced by someone in his 20’s.
But, most of his efforts were devoted to arguing that his disability played a role in his termination. And, that focus largely attacked the drug test to which Mr. Beltran was subjected. The employer argued that Mr. Beltran was fired because he failed a drug test. The plaintiff responded that prior to his termination, he had passed some 55 drug tests over the prior 4 years. The plaintiff pointed to testimony from a doctor saying that the prescription medication he was taking likely caused a “false positive” on his test. During the lawsuit, the plaintiff moved that the judge allow a re-test of the same sample. The judge ordered the re-test to proceed. The parties knew the re-test could result in the same result, which it did.
Regarding summary judgment, the court noted that it does not matter whether the drug test was valid or not. Even if the third re-test had produced a different result, that would still not create a fact so as to avoid summary judgment. Citing Little v. Republic Ref. Co., Ltd., 924 F.2d 93, 97 (5th Cir. 1991), the court noted that the existence of competing evidence about the objective truth of a fact supporting the employer’s preferred reason does not in itself make it reasonable to believe the employer was not truly motivated by its proffered reason. The plaintiff presented evidence that the doctor certifying the initial drug test had a felony conviction did not create a fact issue either. The court was saying that just because the drug test had issues does not indicate the employer did not sincerely believe the results were genuine. Something more would be needed to show that Union Pacific had doubts about the drug test.
The employee also argued that the employer had shifted its explanation over time. But, said the court, the shift was not perceptible to it. So, the judge granted the motion for summary judgment. See the decision here.
And, we are reminded that it is never wise to allege too many bases for discrimination.