SW Legal studies in Business

Involuntary Obscene Talk Is Disability That Employer Could Not Accommodate
Description An employee suffering from Tourette Syndrome, which caused involuntary outbursts of obscene words, was disabled. The employer did not violate the law by dismissing the employee since the disability prevented the employee from behaving with respect toward customers and other employees.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Disability; Job Performance; Tourette Syndrome
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Petzold suffers from a rare neurological disorder, Tourette Syndrome, which caused him to engage in involuntary outbursts of obscene words, racial epithets, and other socially unacceptable terms. He worked as a bagger at a grocery store for a year, during which he would, at times, loudly utter obscenities and racial slurs in the presence of customers. Some customers complained to the manager. Petzold's boss told him that such outbursts, while involuntary, could not be tolerated. The outbursts continued and he was fired. He sued for disability discrimination. His employer moved for summary dismissal of the case. The trial judge refused that motion. The employer appealed.
Decision Reversed; case dismissed. Petzold is disabled. His disability is related to his ability to perform his job as a bagger at a grocery store. His use of offensive language on a daily basis in the presence of customers, children, and other employees, while involuntary, made him unfit for his job as a bagger and constituted misconduct under the employer's work rules prohibiting "abusive language to any employee, supervisor or customer" and "discourtesy."
Citation Petzold v. Borman's, Inc., 617 N.W.2d 394 (Ct. App., Mich., 2000)

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