Mayo sued under Oregon's version of the ADA, which is modeled under the federal statute. The 9th circuit reviewed the employer's successful motion for summary judgment.
The court decided that a person who makes violent threats against co-workers cannot claim protection under disability discrimination laws:
Even if Mayo were disabled (which we assume for this appeal), he cannot show that he was qualified at the time of his discharge. An essential function of almost every job is the ability to appropriately handle stress and interact with others. See Williams v. Motorola, Inc., 303 F.3d 1284, 1290 (11th Cir. 2002). And while an employee can be qualified despite adverse reactions to stress, he is not qualified when that stress leads him to threaten to kill his co-workers in chilling detail and on multiple occasions (here, at least five times). This vastly disproportionate reaction demonstrated that Mayo could not perform an “essential function” of his job, and was not a “qualified individual.” This is true regardless of whether Mayo’s threats stemmed from his major depressive disorder. Cf. Newland v. Dalton, 81 F.3d 904, 906 (9th Cir. 1996) (“Attempting to fire a weapon at individuals is the kind of egregious and criminal conduct which employees are responsible for regardless of any disability.”).
We emphasize that we only address the extreme facts before us in this case: an employee who makes serious and credible threats of violence toward his co-workers. We do not suggest that off-handed expressions of frustration or inappropriate jokes necessarily render an employee not qualified. Nor do we imply that employees who are simply rude, gruff, or unpleasant fall in the same category as Mayo. See U.S. Equal Emp. Opportunity Comm’n, supra, at *15 (advising that an “anti-social” employee with a “psychiatric disability” can be a “qualified individual,” even if he is “abrupt and rude”).
This ruling is consistent with our cases holding that “conduct resulting from a disability is considered to be part of the disability, rather than a separate basis for termination.” Humphrey v. Mem’l Hosps. Ass’n, 239 F.3d 1128, 1139–40 (9th Cir. 2001); see also Gambini v. Total Renal Care, Inc., 486 F.3d 1087, 1094–95 (9th Cir. 2007); Dark v. Curry County, 451 F.3d 1078, 1084 (9th Cir. 2006). Unlike in Humphrey, Gambini, and Dark, we do not need to consider whether PCC has offered a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Mayo, as he has failed to establish a prima facie case at step one of the McDonnell Douglas framework.
we disagree with Mayo that employers must simply cross their fingers and hope that violent threats ring hollow. All too often Americans suffer the tragic consequences of disgruntled employees targeting and killing their co-workers. While the ADA and Oregon disability law protect important individual rights, they do not require employers to play dice with the lives of their workforce. We thus conclude that PCC’s actions in this case were lawful.