Employment-First Circuit Rules That Plaintiff’s Claim Of Retaliation Under The ADA Survives Summary Judgment

In Kelley v. Correctional Medical Services, Inc., No. 11-2246 (1st Cir. 2013), the plaintiff, Katherine Kelley (“Kelley”), was appealing the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (“CMS”), on her retaliation claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). Kelley had claimed that she had been terminated by CMS in retaliation for asking for an accommodation for leg and health issues from which she suffered.

In analyzing the case, the First Circuit Court of Appeals (the “Court”) indicated that, to survive summary judgment on a retaliation claim under the ADA, the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie retaliation claim, by showing that: (1) she engaged in protected conduct; (2) she experienced an adverse employment action; and (3) there was a causal connection between the protected conduct and the adverse employment action. Once the plaintiff has made a prima facie showing of retaliation, the defendant must articulate a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for its employment decision. If the defendant meets this burden, the plaintiff must then show that the proffered legitimate reason is pretextual and that the job action was the result of the defendant’s retaliatory animus. Requesting an accommodation is protected conduct under the ADA’s retaliation provision.

The Court then said that the issue on appeal is whether the plaintiff has shown that CMS’s reason for the termination was pretextual and that the termination was retaliatory. After reviewing the record, the Court concluded that the plaintiff had made such a showing, based primarily on evidence of a supervisor’s hostility towards Kelley’s disability and several requests for accommodation. The Court therefore overturned the district court’s grant of summary judgment and remanded the case back to the district court.