Dismissal of fired Dollar General manager’s ADA claim upheld

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A Dollar General district manager who was fired after he returned from medical leave for cancer treatment could not prevail on his claim that his termination violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday.

Carl Castetter sued his ex-employer after he was fired as a district manager in Fort Wayne. He had responsibility for dollar stores and their employees, including training, hiring, firing, filing proper paperwork, conducting background checks and ensuring compliance with company standards and policies, among other things.

Castetter claimed he was mocked and demeaned by his superiors after he returned. He cited as an example a regional manager whom he claims made him get on his hands and knees to straighten a product and made unprofessional comments such as “I am going to sit here in a lounge chair and watch you work until you drop,” and “I know three people who had what you had, and they all died.”

But the company had issues with Castetter’s oversight performance, according to the record. Some employees were insufficiently trained or working without pay. The company said Castetter had failed to document and screen employees, stores were understaffed, understocked and had high employee turnover, and there was a cash discrepancy, among other deficiencies. Dollar General ultimately fired Castetter after he had been put on an improvement plan that established benchmarks that were not met.

Northern District of Indiana Chief Judge Theresa Springmann granted Dollar General’s motion for summary judgment on Castetter’s ADA claim, and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in Carl Castetter v. Dolgencorp, LLC, 19-2026,

The panel noted Castetter failed to meet the requisite showing of discriminatory intent under Geier v. Medtronic, Inc., 99 F.3d 238, 242 (7th Cir.1996), by demonstrating a causal nexus between the unprofessional remarks and the termination decision.

“At the time of his termination, Dollar General did not believe Castetter was performing his role as a District Manager adequately. Castetter has not provided evidence that Dollar General’s reason for termination is pretextual,” Senior Judge William Bauer wrote for the panel. “… The district court correctly determined the honesty of Dollar General’s beliefs and its reason for firing Castetter was not pretextual.

“Finally, Castetter does not cite any evidence that would allow for a reasonable inference that his employer did not have honest concerns about his professionalism and work ethic. Taken as a whole, Castetter’s claims are insufficient to meet the level of proof that Castetter’s disability was the ‘but for’ cause of his termination,” the panel concluded.

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