Pennsylvania Record

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Favorable ruling for man claiming discrimination following CAD diagnosis

Federal Court

By Charmaine Little | Sep 11, 2019


PHILADELPHIA - A salesman in the health care industry who alleged discrimination in his firing had his case advanced in federal court.

The U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Aug. 30 denied a motion to dismiss by Halyard Health, which fired John V. Cassidy after two years of employment. Cassidy alleged Halyard fired him because of his coronary artery disease (CAD), which he said was a disability, and for declaring his rights for medical leave. Justice Cynthia M. Rufe ruled on the case.

Cassidy also alleged age discrimination in his termination, but Rufe dismissed that charge.

Cassidy was 66 when he started working for Halyard in October 2014. A year later, he was diagnosed with CAD. In January 2016, he told his superior, Eric Christianson, he was suffering chest pains and was on medicine that made him feel groggy. Christianson spoke with the human relations department representative, Portia Taylor, and Taylor said Cassidy was no longer “a good fit,” according to the lawsuit.

Christianson also talked to Cassidy about the CAD diagnosis and Cassidy expressed his concern that he would die in his sleep from a heart attack if he didn’t go to a hospital and get rest. 

In February 2016, the territory's manager, Al Mugno, allegedly told Cassidy that he “was an old man who should retire,” the decision says. He was put on a plan to improve his performance in March 2016 that stated that he didn’t reach the quota for 2015. It detailed nine items that Cassidy would have to complete, which he said was ridiculous.

The court noted that Cassidy properly alleged that he was a victim of discrimination, pointing out that Cassidy proved that he was considered disabled as his CAD condition gave him trouble breathing and chest pains. Halyard said Cassidy was fired because of his low performance, not his disability, but the court said Cassidy showed that performance plan ordered him to go above his quota for three months in a row, but no territory in his region had been able to meet that goal. 

Cassidy alleged that one of the decision-makers in his firing failed to tell other decision-makers that Cassidy improved his quota for the second quarter of 2016, the lawsuit read. He said this wasn’t communicated to make his performance look worse than it really was, the lawsuit read.

Cassidy tried to take leave under the Family Maternity Leave Act, which allows eligible employees to take 12 workweeks of unpaid leave a year for various reasons such as a serious health condition for the employee or their spouse, parent or child, the lawsuit read. An employer is not allowed to retaliate against a worker who decides to take advantage of the leave. Halyard said Cassidy didn’t express that he planned to take FMLA leave, but Cassidy said when he told a superior about his diagnosis, that superior told him that he needed to be concerned about his sales numbers and told him not to take leave. 

The court determined that it’s up to a fact-finder to rule whether the superior was aware that Cassidy had CAD when he wanted to take leave.

Cassidy was ultimately fired and replaced by three people who Cassidy said were much younger than him, but the court ruled that Cassidy failed to prove age discrimination in his firing.

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U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

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