The case is Ingram v. Henry Ford Health Systems decided on 4/21/14 by Judge Nancy G. Edmunds of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54857]. The facts of the case are that Ingram, a supervisor, complained about the poor performance of a supervisee (LaQuita Anderson) and that she was given favorable treatment based on her need to care for a mentally challenged child. Ingram pursued a retaliation claim on grounds that she was subsequently harassed by her own supervisors (Stevenson & Bronikowski) for the performance complaint, and was ultimately terminated as a result. The case is basically simple. As summarized by Judge Edmunds:
The Court finds that Defendant is correct--the ADA explicitly and the PWDCRA implicitly do not create a cause of action for Plaintiff. The Court also finds that Plaintiff cannot establish that she partook in a protected activity, she therefore cannot establish even the first element of a prima facie case of disability discrimination. ….. The ADA explicitly prohibits the type of claim that Plaintiff advances. 42 U.S.C. ß 12201(g) provides: "[n]othing in this chapter shall provide the basis for a claim by an individual without a disability that the individual was subject to discrimination because of the individual's lack of disability." Here, Plaintiff is making the exact argument that ß 12201(g) prohibits, that she was subject to discrimination because she did not have a disability.
In general, retaliation claims have three prongs: (1) engaging in protected activity and (2) suffering an adverse employment action that is (3) causally connected to engaging in the protected activity. The ruling in this case is that Ingram failed on the first prong. Overall, the ruling is consistent with other rulings that have found it legal to engage in favoritism toward disabled individuals (see for example Carrier v. Paige (1998) [159 F.3d 1357], Carvajal v. Pride Industries, Inc. (2013) [U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57435], and Hamilton v. Trail (2011) [U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79629].
By Art Gutman, Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology