PHILADELPHIA (CN) - A former Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was not fired because of his age and heart condition but simply because did not do his job, a federal court ruled.
Paul Mansfield worked in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia from 1991 through late 2007. About midway through that period, he began to experience health problems, notably a heart condition, that required him to take extended leaves of absence on 2001 and again in 2003.
"Despite his medical issues, Mansfield made it abundantly clear to his supervisors that he did not want or need an accommodation to do his job," wrote U.S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis.
In 2006, Mansfield was involuntarily transferred from the office's organized crime task force, and shortly thereafter, he began to file what would become a series of EEO complaints.
"Over the next year-and-a-half, Mansfield failed in a number of ways to adequately perform his duties as an Assistant United States Attorney," Davis wrote.
In October 2007, Mansfield was fired. He sued the agency for age and disability discrimination in December 2009.
But in considering the case, Davis found that "Mansfield did not present any credible direct evidence of retaliation" and instead concluded that "he lost his job because he repeatedly failed to perform his duties; was not open-and-honest with his superiors about his failures; did not appreciate or recognize the seriousness of the problem; and showed no signs of improvement, making rehabilitation extremely unlikely."
Mansfield allegedly showed progressive performance issues as he dealt with his heart condition but, despite several disciplinary actions, failed to improve or properly ask for an accommodation for his disability. In fact, Davis noted, when his performance as an attorney began to suffer, Mansfield was found to have been acting in a stage performance of Dreamgirls that he had failed to seek permission to perform in.
When Mansfield was involuntarily transferred from the Strike Force to the Firearms division as his performance as an attorney waned, he filed his first of many discrimination complaints but still failed to ask for any reasonable accommodations, Davis wrote.
His performance continued to decline in his new position, with more incomplete briefs that appeared "to be poor cut-and-paste" work and failure to meet deadlines.
According to his superiors, "Mansfield procrastinated about everything and drove supervisors crazy by submitting everything at the last minute," leading his superiors to have "constant conversations" with him about "his failure to move cases and meet deadlines," the opinion said.
Mansfield claimed he was threatened during a meeting regarding his performance while he was on suspension and that he had asked for accommodations while his performance suffered, but could not prove it.
"Here, Mansfield did not make clear that he wanted assistance for his alleged disability. Just the opposite," Davis wrote. "When supervisors asked Mansfield about his health and whether he wanted an accommodation, Mansfield rebuffed their efforts. "
Davis held that Mansfield's "merely asking for... allowances does not constitute a good faith accommodation request and, correspondingly, does not qualify as protected activity."
Davis went on to say that say that Mansfield's claims that he complained about being discriminated against and was then fired did not mean that he was fired because of his complaints.
Stating that the issue was a "chicken or the egg" problem, Davis decided that "Even if Mansfield did prove causation, and we conclude he did not, the USAO advanced legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for each and every one of the employment related actions taken with respect to Mansfield, including his transfer out of Strike Force, the written reprimand, the 2-day suspension, the 10-day suspension, the proposal of termination, and the actual termination."
Davis concluded that Mansfield could not prove that his protected activity led to discipline and his termination. "We believe the relatively close temporal proximity between Mansfield's EEO complaints and management's disciplinary actions would allow us, but does not compel us, to find the requisite causal link in this case. First, since Mansfield filed at least ten (10) EEO complaints over an eighteen (18) month period, we hardly find it surprising that the adverse employment actions occurred shortly after one complaint or another. Additionally, we see no credible direct evidence of retaliation by management against Mansfield. Rather, all management's disciplinary actions were reasonable and well-supported by the evidence....Finally, the various decision makers in this matter consistently testified that they did not take any action against Mansfield because of his health problems or EEO complaints, and we find that testimony to be credible and truthful."
Davis wrote that "the overwhelming weight of the evidence, direct and circumstantial, indicates that Mansfield was disciplined and eventually terminated because of his work-related conduct and performance failures, not because of his protected activity. In fact, for the most part, Mansfield does not dispute the specific factual allegations levied against him by the USAO. Rather, he argues that his conduct and performance did not merit the discipline he received. We disagree. In the end, Mansfield simply did not persuasively discredit any of management's proffered reasons for disciplining him, much less tie the adverse employment actions to his protected activity."
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.