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Stray Comments About a Terminated Employee’s Disability Not Enough to Show Discrimination

In the case of Mellinger v. Quality Casing Co., Inc., 2023-Ohio-2403, an appellate court held that the company did not discriminate against the former employee who had multiple sclerosis (MS) when the former employee had poor sale performance and attempted to sell a customer a product the employer did not carry.

In this case, the former employee argued that (1) a supervisor made comments that the supervisor was “concerned” about the former employee’s MS; (2) the former employee had never been warned about the former employee’s poor sale performance and there was a coworker with lower sales numbers; and (3) a supervisor did not tell the former employee that the company no longer sold the product. In response, the company argued that (1) the former employee was terminated for legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons—i.e., the former employee had underperformed in sales for several months and had attempted to sell a product the company no longer carried; (2) the coworker with lower sales had less experience than the former employee and was therefore not required to perform as strongly; and (3) the supervisor who incorrectly told the former employee the company still sold the product was also terminated. The appellate court agreed with the company.

In support of its decision in favor of the company, the appellate court explained that stray remarks in a workplace that have nothing to do with a decision to terminate are not evidence of discrimination. The appellate court further explained that the former employee did not plead enough facts to show that the company’s reasons for termination were a pretext and that the disability was the real reason the former employee was fired.

To read this case, click here.

NOTE: This case was decided by an Ohio appellate court, but used Kentucky law because the company was based there. While Ohio discrimination laws are very similar, they are not the same and the result may have been different if Ohio law was used instead.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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