Gerald Caldwell had worked as a video editor at KHOU-TV for more than 18 years. The local news station knew him to be a good, productive editor who added value to the organization. He could edit fast, and he could edit a lot of different stories. Caldwell had a strong work ethic.
Mr. Caldwell was an employee with a disability. His disability was a leg impairment resulting from a rare form of bone cancer. Caldwell’s supervisors were well aware of that fact because Caldwell had to walk using crutches for years.
Unfortunately, KHOU did not provide Mr. Caldwell the same job opportunities as his peers. His supervisors admit they limited his video editing assignments because of his disability even as they acknowledge he was perfectly capable of performing the tasks they chose not to assign him.
And their decisions to limit Caldwell had consequences. When it came time for lay-offs, KHOU justified laying Caldwell off by first claiming he refused to do those editing duties and then, when that was revealed as a lie, claiming he failed to show the proper initiative to spend as much time doing them. That too was proven to be untrue.
Butler & Harris was able to establish that KHOU’s explanations for firing Mr. Caldwell were unworthy of credence because they were inconsistent over time and erroneous. An employer’s inconsistent explanations for an employment decision “cast doubt” on the truthfulness of those explanations.
KHOU had a practice of consulting with employees who were performing their jobs inadequately. But this policy was not applied to Caldwell—no one ever informed Caldwell that he should have been doing more work in a particular video editing room. Indeed, unlike other employees, Caldwell was actually prevented from doing EDR work by his employer, a limitation that was ultimately used as a basis for his termination.
This differs from KHOU’s treatment of the only other editor laid off at the time who was not disabled. Unlike Caldwell, the other editor who was not performing adequately was informed of his deficiencies in a one-on-one meeting, providing that employee with notice and an opportunity to improve, both of which were withheld from Caldwell.
Caldwell had no apparent reason to believe that his lighter editing schedule would be a reason for the Defendants to conclude his job performance was inadequate. After all, it was Caldwell’s direct supervisors who had not just sanctioned, but mandated, that he spend less time in EDR by not scheduling him to work there.