An employee tore her rotator cuff, and her doctor gave her a note saying she shouldn’t be required to lift more than 10 pounds. Later, she was fired, and she sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming the firing was illegal because it was due to her perceived disability. At trial, a jury agreed that the employee was fired because of her perceived disability. However, it also decided that she would have been fired anyway, even if she hadn’t had a perceived disability.
So who wins? The employer wins in this case, according to a federal appeals court in Chicago. Cases like this are known as “mixed-motive” cases, because there are multiple motives for a firing, some of which are legal and some of which are illegal. But according to the court, as long as the employer would have done what it did anyway for legitimate reasons, the fact that it was also motivated by reasons that violate the disabilities law doesn’t matter and the employee can’t collect any damages.