When is being a jerk a legally protected activity?

ManagementLet’s concede right off the bat that any of us can be guilty of being a jerk at one point or another.

In a moment of frustration, you descend to the cellar of human nature and flip the switch to jerk-dom.

(Think morning traffic commute.)

It happens, if ever so briefly. So you recognize it, fix it, and move on.

But then there are those who seem committed to staying a jerk forever.

Perhaps you have someone in mind??

Not surprisingly, this being the land of lawyers, the courts have finally weighed in on whether employees have the legally protected right of being a jerk at work.

You're Fired!
It is not a sweeping High Court ruling, but it is the next best thing, and managers of jerks should take heart.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that being “cantankerous” does not render an employee disabled or entitled to workplace legal protections.

Here’s how the case, Weaving v. City of Hillsboro(OR), played out.

Matthew Weaving was a Hillsboro, OR, police officer who was fired for creating severe interpersonal problems with his co-workers.

He simply could not get along with peers and subordinates, though his relationship with his superiors was stellar!


He suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which he claimed was the root cause of his jerk-ness.

So he sued Hillsboro, claiming he was legally disabled, and he won $770,000!

The city appealed, and the Ninth Circuit came to the rescue of good managers everywhere.

It said Weaving lacked evidence to prove his ADHD affected his ability to work, in part because he had been honored for his technical competence as a police officer, and he got along swimmingly with his bosses.

The court said, “One who is able to communicate with others, though his communications may at times be inappropriate, ineffective, or unsuccessful, is not substantially limited in his ability to interact with others within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

In other words, you can’t pick and choose who you decide to be a jerk to. If you are able to turn your jerk-ishness on and off at your own choosing, then it’s not a legitimate ailment.

And managers don’t have to put up with it!

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