Michael Muzyka worked for Regions Bank as a “Personal Banker.” During his employment at Regions, Muzyka received performance bonuses. Muzyka also was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His condition caused him to be confused, made it difficult for him to concentrate and experienced difficulty sleeping.
Muzyka’s psychologist provided a list of accommodations to help alleviate the stress associated with Muzyka’s position. These accommodations included flexibility with deadlines, reducing his workload, and recognizing that despite his normal high levels of performance he could have periods of “average performance.” Regions rejected Muzyka’s requests for accommodations.
During his tenure at Regions, Muzyka had different supervisors. Muzyka’s last supervisor indicated that he had performance problems and placed Muzyka on a performance improvement plan. Regions then terminated Muzyka’s employment.
Muzyka brought a lawsuit against Regions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”). TheADAis a civil rights law that, among other things, protects employees from discrimination based on their disability. To prove his case, Muzyka had to show (1) that he is disabled; (2) that he was a qualified individual with a disability; and (3) he was subjected to unlawful discrimination because of his disability.
Regions sought to have the Court dispose of the case by filing a motion for summary judgment. In many civil cases, especially employment cases, summary judgment is critical. When an employer moves for summary judgment, it is telling the judge that on the plaintiff’s best day, his evidence is insufficient to present to the jury. If the employer wins on summary judgment, the case is over and there will be no trial. If the employee is able to prevail on summary judgment, he/she gains leverage over the employer. At this point, the employee’s attorney is in a position to demand a nice settlement for his client.
In this case, Regions claimed that Muzyka was not qualified for the position because of poor performance. Judge Virginia Covington noted that Muzyka presented evidence that he met his goals and received bonus payments. Therefore, she denied Regions motion for summary judgment concluding that there were “genuine issue of material fact concerning whether Muzyka was able to perform the essential functions of his job.”
It looks like Regions will have to open up the check book right about now. Muzyka was terminated a little bit more than two years ago, so he will be looking at that amount in back pay. Depending on his ability to obtain employment elsewhere, Regions could also be responsible for front pay. Additionally, theADAand FCRA provides monetary damages for emotional pain and suffering. Muzyka suffered from a mental condition that no doubt was exacerbated by his treatment by his supervisor. Regions probably would not want to try this case because on top of all that, Muzyka was fired in December, right before the holidays. Unless all your “i’s’” are dotted and “t’s” crossed, you would not want to fire someone before the holidays. As a side note, Regions fired Muzyka after he complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, giving him a meritorious retaliation claim.