10TH CIRCUIT REVERSES LOWER COURT ON ADA DIRECT-THREAT STANDARD
On March 16, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals drove home that when it comes to jury instructions, the devil is inthe details. The court reversed a verdict in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (See: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff – Appellee v. Beverage Distributors Company, LLC, No.14-1012).
This case is important in that it clarifies that actual proof of a direct threat is not required to assert the defense;all that is required is a reasonably-held belief of a direct threat. It also serves as a reminder that precise languageis of paramount importance in jury instructions, lest a jury hold an employer liable based on a failure to provesomething that it was not required to prove in the first instance.
(Important discussions on this and all employment issues at Spring 2015 conference.)