In Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that the ADA does not require that employers accommodate disabled employees who threaten violence.
Timothy Mayo suffered from major depressive disorder, and, in response to issues he and other co-workers were having with a supervisor, made several threats to his co-workers that he planned to come into work and shoot his supervisor and other management-level employees. After human resources learned of the threats and asked Mayo whether he planned to carry out his threats, Mayo was non-committal in his response. Accordingly, the company immediately suspended Mayo, barred him from the property and contacted the police. The police later took Mayo into custody and placed him under medical care. After two months of leave, a psychologist cleared Mayo to return to work but recommended a new supervisor assignment. However, instead of reinstating Mayo, the company terminated his employment.
Mayo filed a disability discrimination lawsuit under Oregon’s counterpart to the ADA. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit, finding that once Mayo made his “violent threats,” he was no longer “entitled to protection under the ADA and Oregon’s disability discrimination statute.” The Ninth Circuit agreed. The court held that Mayo could not assert a claim of disability discrimination because he was not “qualified” at the time of discharge. In so holding, the court determined that an “ability to appropriately handle stress and interact with others” is an essential function of almost every job.” The court concluded that “[w]hile the ADA and Oregon disability law protect important individual rights, they do not require employers to play dice with the lives of their workforce.”