written before about the honest-belief rule-if an employer honestly
believed in the proffered reason for its action, an employee cannot establish
pretext, even if the employer's reason is ultimately found to be mistaken,
foolish, trivial, or baseless. Jones
v. Nissan N. Am. (6th Cir. 8/19/11) [pdf] [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com
subscribers] illustrates that an
employer's honest belief, though, cannot coexist with a disregard of the cold,
In Jones, the employer argued that it could not be
liable for an ADA violation by refusing to return an injured employee to work
because it held an honest belief that an order of the workers' compensation
court prohibited the employee's return. The Court disagreed:
Nissan's defense ... was based on the premise that Nissan
imposed unsubstantiated medical restrictions on Jones because it believed the
chancellor's decision and order required it to do so.... In the instant case,
however, notwithstanding Nissan's arguments to the contrary, it is clear beyond
peradventure that the chancellor's order did not direct Nissan to restrict Jones
from continuing in the trim-fit position he was performing at the time of the
workers' compensation trial. The order only directs Nissan to pay certain
benefits.... Most glaringly, Nissan concluded that Jones was restricted from
using "hand tools," despite the fact that the chancellor did not make a single
finding with regard to Jones's ability to use hand tools in his job.
Courts give wide latitude to employers who make informed
decisions based on all available facts and circumstances. As this case
illustrates, employers who ignore the facts, or fail to make a thorough
investigation to uncover all reasonably available facts, don't fair so well.
Strive to be the former; do not succumb to the ease of the latter.
Visit the Ohio Employer's Law Blog for more
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