One of Two Claims to Proceed in Maine Employee’s Discrimination Suit Against T-Mobile

A former call center coach who worked for T-Mobile USA Inc. in Oakland, Maine sued over his termination in 2020, alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This week, the federal court overseeing the case dismissed the pro se plaintiff’s ADEA claim while permitting his ADA claim to proceed.

The decision comes after a District of Maine magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation in December and after T-Mobile objected to some of those findings in January. 

Reportedly, the plaintiff began to work for T-Mobile in 2005. He received several promotions and in June 2020, at age 66, was the company’s highest ranked coach based on his team’s performance.

In addition, the employee claimed that he has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder for which he requested several leaves of absence beginning in 2012. T-Mobile’s benefits manager reportedly granted those requests, but denied the plaintiff’s request for short-term disability pay. In addition, the plaintiff also requested permission to work from home due to his conditions.

On June 29, 2020, the plaintiff was told that his job was eliminated due to T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint earlier that year. 

The court’s opinion considered whether the plaintiff met the elements of his ADEA and ADA claims. As to the former, the court found that the ex-employee failed to demonstrate either that the employer did not treat age neutrally or that younger persons were retained in his same position. Because his role was eliminated, the plaintiff could not practically allege that it was filled by a younger person with approximately the same job qualifications, the decision said in dismissing the age-related claim.

As to the ADA contention, the court ruled that the plaintiff made the requisite showing as to the three claim elements: he suffers from an ADA-protected disability, he was nevertheless able to perform the essential functions of his job, and that T-Mobile took an adverse employment action against him partly or wholly because of his disability.

The plaintiff demonstrated that he had a protected disability and that he was able to perform essential job functions based on his team’s success, the opinion said. The decision also declined an argument from the wireless carrier contending that the plaintiff’s claim was miscast as an Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) violation due to the fact that T-Mobile’s benefits provider declined the plaintiff’s request for short-term paid leave. Because the plaintiff also contested T-Mobile’s decision to terminate him, the court refused to dismiss the claim on this basis.

T-Mobile is represented by Verrill Dana LLP.