In our blog entry of March 29, 2011, we wrote about the logical fallacy known as “post hoc ergo propter” – believing that “temporal succession” implies a causal relation. That is, the mere close or suspicious timing of two events does not necessarily lead to the logical conclusion that one event caused the other.
In that entry we discussed a federal court decision, Loudermilk v. Best Pallet Co., where an employee’s firing took place just as he handed his boss a note opposing a discriminatory action. The Court stated that as a matter of law, this alone did not show causation for a viable retaliation claim, but the timing of the firing “could support an adverse inference by a reasonable trier of fact,” that is, the issue can be left to the jury, a not particularly auspicious outcome. The Court said that while suspicious timing may be merely suspicious, and no more, “[o]ccasionally, however, an adverse action [the firing] comes so close on the heels of a protected act that an inference of causation is sensible.”
A federal court in Pennsylvania recently held, in Linhart v. Zitelli & Broadland P.C., that an employee who was fired only hours after informing the employer that he had a condition known as avascular necrosis and needed hip replacement surgery stated a viable claim under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) since he raised “a reasonable inference of discrimination.”
*As the Loudermilk Court said it, “an employer who advances a fishy reason takes the risk that disbelief of the reason will support an inference that it is a pretext for discrimination.”