Bloomberg Law for HR Professionals is a complete, one-stop resource, continuously updated, providing HR professionals with fast answers to a wide range of domestic and international human resources...
By Jay-Anne Casuga
Jan. 6 — A human resources director for a Texas community mental health center who was fired after officials discovered that he hadn't been performing annual criminal background checks on certain employees, including himself, can't proceed to trial on various discrimination and retaliation claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Jan. 5 (Miller v. Metrocare Servs., 2016 BL 1312, 5th Cir., No. 15-10086, 1/5/16).
Affirming summary judgment to Metrocare Services, the Fifth Circuit found that the health center presented a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Stephen Miller, who failed to rebut that reason as pretextual. Miller, who is dyslexic, had brought claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act that Metrocare had retaliated against him because he complained about its overtime policy.
Additionally, the appeals court affirmed the dismissal of Miller's procedural due process claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 (42 U.S.C. § 1983), finding that Miller had received an adequate name-clearing hearing after his discharge regardless of whether he had an opportunity to confront Metrocare employees.
The ruling, however, sidesteps an unresolved issue in the circuit on whether confrontation of witnesses is required for adequate name-clearing hearings.
Judge Edith Brown Clement wrote the opinion, joined by Judges Carl E. Stewart and Jennifer Walker Elrod.
Although the ADA, the FMLA and the FLSA have different elements for proving a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation, the Fifth Circuit observed that the laws allow an employer an opportunity to provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory or nonretaliatory reason for firing an employee.
In the present case, Metrocare contended that it fired Miller after it discovered that Miller violated company policy by failing to conduct annual criminal background checks for himself and for approximately 70 employees. It also claimed that Miller allowed personnel records to falsely reflect that the background checks had been completed.
In response, the appeals court said, Miller failed to produce evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that the reason for his termination was pretextual.
“Because Miller did not meet his burden, the district court did not err by granting summary judgment in favor of Metrocare on these claims,” the court said.
In addition, the Fifth Circuit ruled that Miller's Section 1983 procedural due process claim was properly dismissed.
After he was terminated, Miller, who was represented by counsel, requested and received a name-clearing hearing before Metrocare's board of trustees.
“Miller, through his attorney, was allowed to present at length and was allowed to provide documents to the Board to combat the supposedly false, stigmatizing charges against him,” the court said.
The hearing was adequate to satisfy Miller's procedural due process rights, the court said.
In so ruling, it declined to consider Miller's argument that the hearing was deficient because he wasn't provided with an opportunity to confront Metrocare officials.
“We have never directly addressed this issue,” it said. “Nevertheless, we decline Miller's invitation to make confrontation of witnesses a mandatory requirement for an adequate name clearing hearing.”
The court said the record shows that Miller received sufficient due process despite the lack of witness confrontation.
Kilgore & Kilgore represented Miller. Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein represented Metrocare.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)