A temporary employee sued a staffing agency and the company she was assigned to work at. She argued that she had been fired in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act because the company regarded her as disabled. The court initially dismissed her case and she appealed.

The employee was assigned to work at a company that designs and manufactures microchips. For two years, she received positive-to-neutral performance reviews. Then she inhaled chemical fumes while working. Nothing came of the incident initially, but a few weeks later she reported chest pains at work and visited the emergency room. She returned to the ER on two more occasions with heart palpitations. She came to believe that her health condition was caused by exposure to the fumes and notified the company and the staffing agency of that fact. Her employment was terminated approximately two weeks later.

The staffing agency argued that the termination was based on performance problems, namely an incident that had occurred a few months earlier in which the employee had broken some equipment and a more recent incident in which she had engaged in unauthorized access to the Internet at work. These incidents were not documented at the time they occurred. Additionally, when the company began to compile “documentation” justifying its decision to terminate the employee, it collected multiple reports from supervisors explicitly tying complaints about her conduct to her asserted medical needs. These emails extensively discuss her health condition and reference her “need to sit down for a bit,” “chest pains,” and trouble breathing.

The Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of her case and found that there was enough evidence to proceed to trial. The court noted that although the employer argued that the termination was based on written documentation of performance problems, there was no documentation of that fact. Indeed, the employer created negative documentation regarding the employee’s performance only after the decision had been made to terminate her employment. The court further noted that the decision to terminate her employment occurred shortly after she reported her belief that she had been injured at work. These facts were enough to support an allegation that she might have been terminated because of her disability and she could go to trial.