The retaliation claim leveled against ConMed (NSDQ:CNMD) by a former sales rep who accused the company of firing him because he’s Iranian-American can stand, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday, but found that a lower court’s dismissal of a discrimination claim can also stay on the books.
Reza Yasdian was a territory manager for ConMed’s endoscope business in Cincinnati from April 2005 until he was fired in July 2010, according to court documents filed with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“By all accounts, Yazdian was a talented salesman, receiving awards, bonuses, and promotions for his performance at ConMed. In 2009, Yazdian’s supervisors rated his work ‘good’ or “very good’ in all categories,”Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote for the 6th Circuit.
But friction developed after a new direct supervisor came on board in late 2008. Yazdian subsequently complained at least 4 times that he was singled out because of his Iranian heritage; ConMed maintained that Yasdian was let go because of his combative and insubordinate attitude, according to the documents.
The 6th Circuit overturned a ruling by Judge Sandra Beckwith of the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio dismissing both the retaliation and discrimination claims, ruling that Beckwith erred in dismissing the allegation of retaliatory firing.
“A reasonable jury could conclude that Yazdian used and intended the phrase “hostile work environment” to reference discriminatory treatment because he was aware of the legal significance of the term and meant it to be a complaint about national-origin or religious discrimination,” Nelson Moore wrote, noting that “an employee who opposes a hostile work environment need not prove that the environment he complained of was actually hostile in order for the employee to receive protection from retaliation.”
But Beckwith was correct in dismissing Yasdian’s discrimination claim, the appeals court ruled.
“Yazdian simply has not presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that ConMed’s stated reason for terminating Yazdian was pretext for discrimination. Therefore, the district court did not err by granting summary judgment in ConMed’s favor on the discrimination claim,” Nelson Moore wrote.