Private University Professor Was Properly Fired For Exhibiting Frightening Behavior

September 15, 2014 | Bulletin No. 1143118.1

The University of San Francisco terminated a tenured professor after the employee exhibited angry and frightening behavior with other employees over a substantial period of time.  In Kao v. University of San Francisco (August 4, 2014, A135750) ___ Cal.App.4th ___, the Court of Appeal held the professor's supervisor had a reasonable basis to request a fitness for duty examination and the employee's refusal to submit to the examination made his erratic behavior grounds for termination.

The professor challenged his termination on the following grounds, all of which were rejected:

1.  The university was not required to engage in an interactive process prior to termination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, because the employee denied he was disabled and never requested an accommodation.

2.  The statements of other employees provided substantial evidence to support the jury's conclusion that a fitness for duty exam was necessary.

3.  The same statements provided substantial evidence to support the university's decision to bar the professor from campus and did not violate the Unruh Act.

4.  The employee failed to prove his termination was in retaliation for his refusal to allow disclosure of his medical records under the California Civil Code section 56.20(b) because his termination was based only on his erratic behavior.

5.  The employee failed to produce evidence of malice to support defamation, and

6.  The university did not engage in spoliation of evidence when it removed and destroyed a faculty supervisor's computer, since the university had a longstanding IT policy of periodically replacing and eliminating faculty computers.


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