The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held recently that a plaintiff could not continue her discrimination lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because she was not a “qualified individual.” Evidence produced by her former employer after the litigation was underway showed she was not qualified for the job she held, and thus had no standing to sue.
According to the court’s ruling in Anthony v. Trax Int’l Corp., No. 18-15662 (9th Cir. April 17, 2020), before reaching the merits of an ADA claim, a plaintiff must establish that he or she is a “qualified individual.” This requires both a showing that the person has the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements for the position at issue, and that she can perform the essential functions of the position with or without a reasonable accommodation.
In this case, the employer discovered that the plaintiff did not have a bachelor’s degree – a requirement of the job specified in the government contract the company had with the U.S. Army – only after she had filed her ADA lawsuit claiming she was terminated because of her disability. The case had proceeded to that point based on the plaintiff’s false claim when she was hired that she had the degree. Although nearly two years had passed between the time she was hired and the filing of her suit, the Ninth Circuit found that this so-called after-acquired evidence could be used to disqualify her, noting that “an employer’s ignorance cannot create a credential where there is none.”
Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.