ST. LOUIS — An appeals court reversed a jury verdict against the Washington University in St. Louis over alleged violations of the Missouri Human Rights Act by discriminating against a researcher with a disability.
The Missouri Court of Appeals in the Eastern District disagreed with two appeals by the school claiming the human rights act was not correctly applied to the case, but agreed that the trial court had given improper instructions.
The plaintiff, Li Lin, worked as a research scientist for the school from 1996 to 2012. In 2004, she was transferred to a laboratory under Matthew Ellis.
Throughout her time at the university, Lin complained of chronic back pain and was ultimately diagnosed with two herniated disks.
She asked to be relieved of any responsibilities that could flare up her pain, and was later told her position would be terminated because of budgeting issues.
As she had in the past, Lin applied for multiple positions at the university (41 in total), but unlike in her previous experience with the university, she wasn’t offered any.
She subsequently filed a discrimination charge with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights against the school and Ellis, saying they retaliated against her because of her disability, and received a right to sue.
The jury ruled in her favor against the school, but ruled against her concerning her claims against Ellis.
In the school's appeal, it said the trial court had “assumed as true the disputed facts that Dr. Lin requested accommodation for a ‘disability,’ that her request was ‘reasonable,’ and that she acted reasonable and in ‘good faith,’” according to the appeals court ruling.
The appeals court ruled that the trial court had erred in this situation and reversed and remanded the case.
Judge Angela T. Quigless wrote the opinion. Judges Roy L. Richter and Robert M. Clayton agreed.