A federal judge last week dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former Evansville public works employee alleging the town fired him due to his national origin and disability.
Roy Mestas alleged that his supervisor at the public works department called him and another Hispanic city worker a racial slur before eventually firing him.
Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal on Nov. 21 granted the town’s motion for summary judgement, which means the case was dismissed before it could go to trial.
Freudenthal wrote that Mestas’s claims of racial harassment did not indicate a hostile work environment and he did not show that he was retaliated against for reporting harassment at work.
The judge noted that Mestas recorded some conversations with his boss, but none included racial remarks. Mestas did not tell any city officials about the alleged harassment at the time.
Even if the claims are true, however, “they represent offhand comments and isolated incidents” which did not amount to a pattern, the judge wrote.
The judge likewise found that Mestas did not qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Mestas fell at work in November 2012 and went on medical leave until mid-January 2013. He was dismissed from work in mid-April of the same year. After applying for disability benefits, the Social Security Administration determined he was totally disabled and received corresponding benefits.
Although Mestas called upon the ADA to keep him employed, he did not have a recorded disability as required by the legislation, the court determined. Mestas did not inform his supervisor about the seriousness of his injury or provide a doctor’s note after he returned to work that January as is required by the ADA to be legally protected.
By the time he was dismissed, Mestas was no longer able to perform his job duties. Protection by the ADA requires someone still be able to work.
As a result, Mestas’s claims of suffering a hostile work environment and retaliation on the grounds of his disability were denied.
The town maintained throughout the legal proceedings that Mestas was not discriminated against. It cited the at-will nature of Mestas’s employment, which allowed the town to dismiss Mestas without giving a reason.
Megan Hayes, who represented Mestas in the case, said she and her client were considering appealing the decision. They will have until Dec. 21 to file an appeal.
A person answering the phone at MacPherson, Kelly and Thompson, the law firm that represented Evansville in the case, said none of the lawyers who worked the case would comment.