Sherman v. Runyon, 2000 WL 1851535 (8th Cir. (Minn) 2000)
Plaintiff is a deaf man who vocalizes and uses ASL as his primary language. He is a former postal worker who filed suit alleging discrimination and retaliatory discharge under Section 504. Two days before his termination plaintiff had filed a formal EEO charge against his supervisor alleging disability discrimination. Defendant, the US Postal Service, has a zero tolerance policy against violence in the workplace. When plaintiff was criticized by his supervisor for not doing his job properly, he became angry and began gesturing and vocalizing. The supervisor, who had a limited knowledge of ASL, did not recognize the signs and interpreted the gestures as a threat. Plaintiff was suspended and terminated the next day. Plaintiff also alleged disparate treatment in that two other employees were not discharged for their violent outbursts. Defendant's motion for summary judgment was denied. On appeal, the district court's ruling in favor of defendant was affirmed: Defendant's termination of plaintiff was not pretextural, he was not similarly situated to the other employees who were not terminated, there was no evidence of "intentional" discrimination and that both actual violence and threats of violence are legitimate reasons for termination, and the timing of plaintiff's filing of his protected formal EEO complaint and his termination was insufficient to show retaliation given the defendant's policy of zero tolerance.