Human Resources News & Insights

Court: ADA doesn’t protect employees who verbally abuse colleagues

By now, employers are familiar with their responsibilities to provide reasonable accommodations to workers. But what if a disabled worker has an unreasonable request? 

Needed short breaks

Network support analyst Tony Kassa told his supervisor at Synovus Bank about his disabilities – depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive anger disorder and more (from his 10-year stint in the Army) – and said he needed certain accommodations: short breaks, no working with customers and no talking on the phone.

The bank initially complied, but a new supervisor required him to perform all job functions. Kassa then reported to HR that he was “going to end up losing (his) temper talking to somebody on the phone.”

Soon after, a female bank teller heard him telling another female teller on the phone, “Nothing personal, I hate working with women.”

After the co-worker complained, Tony got fired. He filed an ADA discrimination and retaliation claim, alleging his misconduct stemmed from his disabilities and he made the statement when his “disability flared up.”

Accommodate bad behavior?

However, the U.S. District Court was “not convinced that the ADA requires an employer to maintain indefinitely an employee who is rude to his co-workers and who tells a female co-worker that he hates working with women,” and granted judgment to the employer in Kassa v. Synovus Bank.

That’s good news for employers: It’s not necessary to accommodate an employee’s ongoing bad behavior, even if brought on by a legitimate disability.

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