An employee using the “honest belief” doctrine in a bias case? As if!

He has my pants on fire... :)To defend against a claim of discrimination, an employer can argue that it fired an employee because it honestly believed that the employee did “X.” And, as long as “X” isn’t discriminatory, the employer prevails. This is the honest belief doctrine.

So, can an employee flip the “honest belief doctrine” on its head to show that an employer’s purported legitimate business reason for disciplining an employee was actually pretext for discrimination?

Find out after the jump…

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An applicant for a security-officer position at a hospital was asked on a job application whether he had ever been diagnosed with or treated for alcoholism or drug addiction? He answered no to both and got the job.

Except, you see, he had a history of drug and alcohol use and had treated for both. And, when the hospital found out, it fired him., the security officer honestly believed┬áthat he had never received addiction treatment because “no change occurred in his substance abuse behavior” and his time in treatment was simply to have been “fulfil[lment] of a requirement of the state and that’s it.”

So, he sued the hospital for disability discrimination.

Dude, really? (My words, not the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit). These are the words of the Third Circuit in Reilly v. Lehigh Valley Hospital:

Reilly’s belief that he answered the pertinent inquiries truthfully is not the determinative factor. The question is whether the decision maker at LVH could regard Reilly’s responses as dishonest. The answer to that question is resoundingly, “yes.” … Reilly’s bare assertion that he completed the Employment Form truthfully because he believed the purpose of the treatment at Livengrin was to resolve his DUI charge, not treat his addictions, is insufficient “to permit a factfinder either to disbelieve [LVH’s] articulated reasons, or to conclude that discrimination on account of disability was the real reason” for Reilly’s termination.

It’s such a lonely word…