Legal Memorandum: Summary Judgment in an Employment Discrimination Case

Issue: When is summary judgment granted in an employment discrimination case based on disability?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Employment discrimination case; Summary judgment; Disability
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 97 Wn. App. 657; 140 Wn. 2d 1005; 509 U.S. 502; 69 Wn. App. 709; 120 Wn. 2d 512; 80 Wn. App. 212; 128 Wn. 2d 656; 99 Wn. App. 459; 212 F.3d 493; 121 Wn. 2d 8; 110 Wn. 2d 355; 530 U.S. 133; 411 U.S. 792
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2001

          Summary judgment is warranted only when the trial court finds no genuine issue of a material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Tanner Elec. Co-op v. Puget Sound Power & Light Co., 128 Wn. 2d 656, 668 (1996) (en banc).  In resolving such a motion, the trial court considers all facts and makes all inferences in a light favorable to the nonmoving party.  Id. at 668.  The trial court may not grant summary judgment unless the pleadings, affidavits, and documents on file, construed most favorably to the nonmovant, show both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Bruce v. Northwest Metal Prods. Co., 79 Wn. App. 505, 512 (1995).

Summary judgment in employment discrimination cases is rarely appropriate because the question of an employer’s intent to discriminate is a question of fact.  Johnson v. Department of Soc. & Health Servs., 80 Wn. App. 212 (1996).  Likewise, the question whether a person has a disability, handicap, or other abnormal medical condition is a question of fact that precludes summary judgment in disability discrimination cases.  Doe v. Boeing Co., 121 Wn. 2d 8, 15 (1993).  The employee’s evidence that he or she was qualified to perform an available position is sufficient to preclude a summary judgment, as is evidence that the employer failed to take steps to reasonably accommodate the employee.  Bruce, 70 Wn. App. […]

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