The Michigan Court of Appeals recently released its decision in Jewett v Mesick Consol Sch Dist, ___ Mich App ___ (2020), which involved a claim of employment discrimination under Michigan’s Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (PWDCRA). The relevant facts are as follows: Plaintiff, Randy Jewett, was hired as a custodian for the Defendant School District in 1992. Jewett suffered from ADHD, a reading disorder, and other conditions. Jewett had a long history of disciplinary problems, which included a cycle of being advised that his performance was subpar, followed by a period of improved performance that inevitably returned to substandard work. Ultimately, the School District sought to enter into a “Last Chance Agreement” with Jewett; however, Jewett resigned instead, believing that the School District’s actual intent was to eventually terminate him.
Thereafter, Jewett filed a legal action against the School District, alleging that he had been discriminated against on the basis of his disabilities. But the court disagreed, noting that Jewett had been accommodated, for years, relative to his disabilities. For example, school staff had read written materials for Jewett when necessary, and Jewett’s job responsibilities were communicated to him either verbally or with color‑coded building illustrations. Additionally, although Jewett argued he was constructively discharged, the court found that there was no basis to conclude the School District had made his working conditions intolerable, as required to prove constructive discharge. The court recognized that the School District had legitimate, non‑discriminatory reasons for disciplining Jewett and requiring him to sign a Last Chance Agreement – i.e., Jewett’s performance issues – and those reasons were not pretext for disability‑based discrimination.
The Court of Appeals’ Opinion may be accessed here.