Curley v. City of North Las Vegas

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 12-02-2014
  • Case #: 12-16228
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Friedland for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Owens
  • Full Text Opinion

The correlation between an employee’s termination from work and his discrimination complaint against his employer does not necessarily create a prima facie case of retaliation by an employer where the employee’s disciplinary record at work was extensive, and an additional altercation with another employee occurred around the same time as his termination.

Michael Curley was an employee of the City of North Las Vegas for about thirteen years until his termination in 2009. During his time with the City, he had several verbal altercations with other employees, and made numerous threats against coworkers and supervisors. Curley suffered from a hearing impairment and requested that the City provide him an accommodation. The City rejected his request, and recommended that he use dual hearing protection. Curley filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in 2008, alleging that the City had denied his request for accommodation. Shortly there after, Curley encountered another altercation with a coworker where the coworker requested that he remove his hearing protection to discuss the job they were working on, to which Curley responded by swearing and asking the coworker if he thought he was a doctor. The City scheduled a fit-for-duty evaluation for Curley. The doctor who conducted the evaluation determined that he was fit-for-duty and was not a danger to himself or others. Human Resources later recommended a hearing to determine how to discipline Curley, which resulted in his termination. On appeal, Curley argued that the City’s decision to fire him despite his positive fit-for-duty evaluation was in response to his EEOC filing and creates a genuine issue of material fact as to the credibility of the City’s stated reasons for firing him. The Ninth Circuit determined that Curley’s threats were an independent and sufficient basis for dismissal, regardless of whether he posed an actual danger and Curley does not try to refute the other reasons presented by the City for his termination. The panel went on to note that the timing of the termination, with reference to the EEOC filing, does nothing to refute the City’s legitimate explanations for the adverse employment action. AFFIRMED.

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