Head v. Glacier Northwest, Inc., 413 F.3d 1053 (9th Cir. 2005)

Matthew Head, a barge offloader, sued his former employer, Glacier Northwest, Inc., for discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Oregon state law. Glacier contended it terminated Head because he had damaged one of its loaders when it got stuck in the mud. At trial, the jury was instructed that Head had to prove that Glacier terminated his employment “because of” his perceived disability instead of the disability’s being a “motivating factor” in the termination. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Glacier; the Ninth Circuit reversed the judgment, holding that the jury should have been given a “mixed motive” instruction. The Court further held that in order to defeat summary judgment, Head was not required to supply medical evidence of his alleged disability, but only that his condition impaired one or more major life activities. Since Head had submitted evidence that his depression and bipolar disorder impaired his ability to sleep, interact with others, think and read, he was entitled to proceed to trial on his claims of disability discrimination. Cf. Mendoza v. Town of Ross, 128 Cal. App. 4th 625 (2005) (terminated school volunteer could not assert disability discrimination claim because he was not an employee).