May 10, 2023
A recent decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals provides insights for employers on how to handle employee terminations and issues regarding the Americans With Disabilities Act, McGuireWoods Richmond associate Heidi Siegmund wrote in a May 5, 2023, Law360 article.
The 4th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Title IX and ADA retaliation and disability discrimination claims brought by a college professor who allegedly was told she was “not a good fit” for the college. The court held on April 18 that “though there may be circumstances where evidence reveals that ‘good fit’ is a subterfuge for discrimination or retaliation, it is also a perfectly innocuous comment.”
In her article, “Employee Termination Lessons After 4th Circ. Bias Case,” Siegmund wrote that the opinion offers guidance for employers, who should practice transparency and consistency in communications with employees regarding adverse employment decisions. They also should exercise caution in discussing an employee’s fit within the organization and carefully define “good fit” by reference to neutral criteria that do not implicate protected characteristics.
“Although situations that present both performance and ADA issues are often risky and always fact-specific, employers can minimize risk by reacting promptly and transparently,” Siegmund wrote.
Siegmund is a litigator in McGuireWoods’ Labor & Employment Department and a member of the firm’s education industry team. She advises public and private educational institutions on education- and employment-related issues.