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Assuming then that the employer has met its burden of producing a nondiscriminatory reason for its actions, the focus of proceedings at trial (and at summary judgment) will be on whether the jury could infer discrimination from the combination of (1) the plaintiff's prima facie case; (2) any evidence the plaintiff presents to attack the employer's proffered explanation for its actions; and (3) any further evidence of discrimination that may be available to the plaintiff (such as independent evidence of discriminatory statements or attitudes on the part of the employer) or any contrary evidence that may be available to the employer (such as evidence of a strong track record in equal opportunity employment).
In 1991, Etim U. Aka ("Aka") underwent heart bypass surgery, and thereafter was unable to perform his prior job as an orderly at Washington Hospital Center ("WHC"). After several of his applications for vacant positions at WHC were turned down, he sued WHC in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that WHC in its hiring decisions had discriminated against him on the basis of his age and disability, and that WHC had also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., ("the ADA") by failing to reasonably accommodate his disability by reassigning him to a vacant position. The district court granted summary judgment to WHC, and Aka appealed.
Did the district court err in granting summary judgment to WHC?
The court found that the district court had erred. The court ruled that the evidence was sufficient for a reasonable factfinder to infer discrimination in WHC’s hiring of an apparently less-qualified candidate to a job for which Aka had applied and that discriminatory intent was a jury question. The court also found that the district court applied improper analysis in finding that WHC was not required to reassign the Aka under the ADA and remanded for a proper determination of the issue.