Today, the DC Court of Appeals issued a favorable decision in our case, Khalil Abdul-Azim v. Howard University Hospital, No. 17-CV-453. Our client, Mr. Abdul-Azim was a cardiology technician at Howard University Hospital. He had an excellent performance record and no history of discipline. However, he was suspended after a coworker falsely accused him of misconduct. Howard required him to have a psychiatric examination and treatment before he could return to work. Although Mr. Abdul-Azim did not have a psychiatric condition, he followed Howard’s instructions. But Howard claimed it did not receive proof and refused to let Mr. Abdul-Azim come back. Mr. Abdul-Azim repeatedly contacted Howard to ask what proof he should submit. No one ever responded. Howard fired Mr. Abdul-Azim for failing to comply with conditions to return to work.
Trial court disregarded evidence of perceived disability discrimination
In April 2017, we filed a lawsuit alleging that Howard discriminated against Mr. Abdul-Azim based on a perceived disability. In short, we argued that Howard fired Mr. Abdul-Azim because it believed he had a mental disability. Howard filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to rule in Howard’s favor without a jury trial. The court granted the motion and erroneously concluded that no reasonable jury could find that Howard thought Mr. Abdul-Azim was disabled.
Appeals court concludes that jury could find wrongful termination
We appealed the decision to the DC Court of Appeals. Attorney Sara McDonough drafted the brief and presented the oral argument. Based on her arguments, the Court of Appeals vacated the Superior Court’s judgment in favor of Howard. In its decision, the Court of Appeals wrote: “In our view, a reasonable factfinder could conclude that Mr. Abdul-Azim was terminated not for a failure to follow proper procedures in his effort to return to work but rather because HUH perceived that he was disabled.” The case has been remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings.
Alan Lescht and Associates handles disability discrimination cases for state and local government and private-sector employees in DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia, and for federal government employees around the world. If you believe your employer discriminated against you for a disability or a perceived disability, contact us today.