Alamillo v. BNSF Ry. Co., 2017 WL 3648514 (9th Cir. 2017)

Antonio Alamillo, who worked as a locomotive engineer for BNSF, missed several calls and was suspended on at least two occasions before being terminated. Around the same time, Alamillo began to suspect he was experiencing a medical problem and was soon diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (“OSA”) for which he was prescribed a CPAP machine. Alamillo sued for disability discrimination. The district court granted summary judgment to BNSF, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that Alamillo had failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination. There was no evidence that his OSA was a substantial motivating reason for the decision to terminate his employment because BNSF did not know that Alamillo was allegedly disabled when it made the decision to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him. Further, even if Alamillo had established a prima facie case of discrimination, BNSF’s asserted reason for terminating Alamillo was his recurrent absenteeism, and there was no evidence that that reason was pretext for discrimination. The Court also affirmed dismissal of Alamillo’s claims for failure to reasonably accommodate his alleged disability (BNSF was not required to offer “leniency” as an accommodation) and failure to engage in the interactive process because no reasonable accommodation could have cured his prior absenteeism.