NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana recently denied Gulf Logistics Operating's motion for summary judgment in a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the court order filed April 5, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle denied the motion for summary judgment due to excessive factual disagreements in the case. The EEOC alleges Jason Gunderson was unlawfully dismissed from his position as a deckhand by Gulf Logistics in 2013 because of his perceived disability.
The suit claims Gulf Logistics management personnel deemed Gunderson a disabled person after he sought help from an employee assistance program (EAP) for situational depression. After Gunderson used the EAP’s services, he allegedly was subject to a mandatory medical clearance, which is not permitted under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ruling states.
Gulf Logistics claimed the rationale behind the medical clearance was the company’s adherence to the safety standards of the Coast Guard, considering Gunderson’s position as a deckhand, the ruling states.
The suit claims that once Gunderson was declared medically stable enough to resume work, he was able to perform his job duties as usual but was erroneously regarded as too emotionally compromised to carry out his tasks, the ruling states.
Gulf Logistics denied the allegations, claiming Gunderson was let go from his position due to his poor performance at work, Lemelle's ruling states. According to the ruling, Gunderson’s captains reported that the quality of his work diminished and he neglected to complete certain tasks, presuming the lack of proficiency to be related to personal issues.
The suit claimed the presumptions made about Gunderson's mental state were the reason for his dismissal, as Gulf Logistics could not prove that he was not performing at an acceptable level.
Gulf Logistics defended its rationale for dismissal by citing two documents – one being a disciplinary report and another being an email authored by his captain six days after Gunderson’s final day of work with the company in June 2013.
"Because there are genuine factual disputes as to multiple issues in this case, including whether Mr. Gunderson’s impairment is transitory and minor, whether plaintiff can make a prima facie case of discrimination, whether defendant’s articulated reason for discharging Mr. Gunderson is pretextual, and whether the medical examination defendant required of Mr. Gunderson was proper, summary judgment is not proper," Lemelle wrote.