(CN) – The Oregon Appeals Court upheld dismissal of an employment discrimination case in which a state employee refused to submit to a medical examination in light of “bizarre working conditions” she brought about.
The appellate court found that the exam request, in the context of the employee’s behavior – which included accusing her co-worker of stealing torn-up trash and pasting it together at home – was justified as job-related.
Barbara Heiple sued the state and various individuals when she was fired in 2002 after refusing to submit to an independent medical exam intended to determine whether she represented a threat to herself or others in the workplace.
According to Jeanne Krausse, her only co-worker at the John Day office of the Oregon Employment Department, Heiple was seen “standing in the bathroom in a trance-like state just pulling out paper towels one after another to the point where it overflowed the trash can.”
In an e-mail to a human resources manager, Krausse wrote that Heiple spent “most of her day e-mailing, printing the e-mails, reading them, tearing them up and now she is keeping them in a giant manila envelope since she suspects that I retrieve them from the trash.”
Krausse described other aggressive, paranoid behavior on Heiple’s part and expressed fear for others’ safety.
The appeals court affirmed Marion County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal after review of Heiple’s personnel file, which reflected escalating complaints from customers and co-workers that culminated in a two-week suspension in June 2002.
The court rejected Heiple’s use of an anti-discrimination statute protecting disabled workers. According to the statute, an employee need not submit to a medical exam unless it is “job-related.”
“(E)mployers must be able to use reasonable means to ascertain the cause of troubling behavior without exposing themselves to liability for disability discrimination,” Judge Sercombe wrote.
The medical test was clearly job-related, the appellate court concluded in affirming summary dismissal.