The Simpsons has been on the air for over 30 years. For 27 of those years, Alf Clausen was the show’s composer — until he was abruptly fired in 2017 not long after he revealed his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis to the producers.
The 79-year-old composer initially filed a claim in a California court alleging that Fox Broadcasting and the producers of the show engaged in age discrimination when they replaced him without any prior complaints about his work. The producers fought back, filing an anti-SLAPP counterclaim.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) are generally used by businesses and organizations to silence their critics by tying them up in court. The associated expense and hassle can be an effective means of intimidation against other would-be critics. An anti-SLAPP lawsuit, which is available in California, relies on specific laws to combat such actions. The only problem is that those same businesses and organizations sometimes use an anti-SLAPP lawsuit to try to delegitimize a valid claim.
In this case, Fox was only partially successful. While a judge did dismiss the age discrimination claim, the composer amended his complaint to include charges of disability discrimination. He alleged that producers took no action to accommodate his condition once he revealed it.
The judge hearing the case not only allowed that portion of the case to move forward,but he indicated that the evidence was strong enough for the composer to prevail at trial. That likely spells the end of the anti-SLAPP suit.
Nobody should have to worry about what will happen to their job when they reveal a hidden disability to their employer. If you believe that you suffered negative consequences due to your employer’s disability discrimination, find out what it takes to make a claim.