Posted on 03/14/2011 at 10:11 AM by Russell Samson
Charlie Sheen's $100 million lawsuit against Warner Brothers (WB Studio Enterprises) and Chuck Lorre includes two claims under California's state law prohibiting discrimination based on disability including a perceived disability claim. A copy of the complaint and a link to the original document in pdf format are available on the Los Angeles Times website. Sheen asserts that WB has accused him of having physical and mental disabilities and has quoted health experts claiming Sheen is in an alleged manic and/or bi-polar state or describing him as suffering from hypomaniac psychological state. The lawsuit goes on to claim that rather than accommodate Sheen, WB instead terminated Sheens employment agreement. The complaint continues:
At no time was Mr. Sheen's performance of his acting duties, with a reasonable accommodation for Warner Bros.[s] claim of his alleged physical and mental disabilities, a danger to either Mr. Sheen or any other persons health or safety. Neither would an accommodation of Mr. Sheens medical needs based on Warner Bros.[s] claim of Mr. Sheens alleged physical or mental disability have imposed an undue hardship on WB.
Sheen also alleges that Lorre engaged in an ongoing campaign of harassment, including Mr. Lorre stat[ing] publicly, that Mr. Sheen suffered from physical and mental maladies. Later, the complaint focuses on what it calls the vanity cards at the end of Mr. Lorres shows where it is alleged that there were outrageous insults and derogatory remarks . . . specifically targeting Mr. Sheens alleged illness. Like (and this is quoted in the Complaint):
. . . write a country song entitled, Hooker in the Closet. (Chorus: Theres a hooker in my closet, neath the monogrammed robes, dont know how she got there and I cant find my clothes. Officer Krupke, how are you tonight? Ive misplaced my watch but Im feeling all right.)
Oh, the harassment! Oh, the anguish! Oh, the public humiliation that vanity card no doubt caused poor Charlie Sheen! Having for decades defended employers from claims of discrimination, there is very little which surprises me in terms of the claims that employees advance against their employers. But Sheens complaint provides a good lesson on claims of perceived disability. Those are the kind where the complaining party claims I dont have a disability, but you thought that I did, and you took action based on that perception. A word to the wise: Focus on the facts of the employees misconduct and performance problems, and deal with those. Dont assume why the employee might have acted that way, and dont try to deal with that assumption. Stick to the facts. As noted earlier, Sheens recent complaint is based on Californias law. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, discrimination and harassment based on a perceived disability is prohibited; however, an employer has no duty to reasonably accommodate a perceived disability.
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