Company that ‘forgave’ worker doesn’t have to do it again

Even though a company let an employee who engaged in hostile and abusive behavior “slide” and didn’t punish him, it can still fire him if he does it again, says a federal appeals court.

The case involved a sewer worker in North Las Vegas who had a long history of threatening and abusive behavior. The worker requested an accommodation for a hearing disability. A short time later, he was placed on leave after an incident where he swore at a co-worker. After an investigation of the incident, he was fired.

The worker sued, claiming he was discriminated against because of his disability. He said the city’s investigation of the swearing incident was just a pretext for discrimination, because he had engaged in similar misbehavior many times in the past and had gotten away with it.

But the court sided with the city. It said the city was justified in firing the worker for his misbehavior, and the fact that it had turned a blind eye to his misconduct in the past didn’t mean that it was required to do so indefinitely.