The Western District of Texas granted summary judgment involving a CPS worker. The City Public Service worker, Gabriel Sanchez, was employed as a cable splicer for CPS Energy. He was out on medical leave for PTSD when he was fired in 2016. The worker was involved in a second “flash” incident in which he cut through the wrong cable. This was his second flash incident, the causing PTSD. CPS defended the case saying Mr. Sanchez had a “pattern” of safety violations.
The Western District accepted Defendant’s characterization of the so-called “pattern” of safety violations. Even though, management level employees indicated that the decision was made during a meeting in February, 2016. At that meeting, just one of the flash incidents was discussed. At the same meeting, the managers also discussed Plaintiff’s PTSD diagnosis. The Plaintiff was scheduled to return to work at CPS the day before he was fired on March 8.
The Court found the testimony was clear that no manager discussed Plaintiff’s PTSD at the February, 2016 meeting. Though the court’s opinion is well documented, it appears the Court disregarded inferences that some managers likely did discuss Plaintiff’s PTSD diagnosis at that critical meeting. If the managers did discuss the diagnosis, that suggests the diagnosis played some role in the decision to terminate the 16 year worker. Even if it is only a possibility that the mangers discussed the PTSD diagnosis, summary judgment was not appropriate.
The Court noted that Mr. Sanchez was not released back to work by March 7, 2016. But, CPS did not know his status on March 8. The decision to fire him was not based on not being qualified to work. It was based on his alleged pattern of safety violations. His TWC work status said he would return to work on March 21, 2016. But, CPS had no knowledge of that recommendation when it made the decision to fire him on Feb. 16, 2016. CPS then conveyed the termination decision to Mr. Sanchez on Match 8. So, even though there might be a factual issue regarding his ability to work on March 8, his ability – or not – did not apparently factor into the decision to fire him.
It did not help his cause that the Plaintiff testified that he did not consider himself to be disabled, but his doctors believe he has a disability. The Court was troubled by the worker’s status as of March 8. It found that he was not qualified to work as a cable splicer as of March 8. The Court noted the recommendation that he not do electrical work. But, as Plaintiff noted, a recommendation does not mean he cannot do electrical work. The case shows the difficulty in prosecuting cases in which the medical evidence is not 100% supportive of returning to work. But, in the real world, medical advice is often inconsistent. The Western District has again reviewed factual issues and weighed evidence. See the decision in Sanchez v. City of San Antonio here.