On June 12, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Hawaii U.S. District Court ruling that an aircraft refueling company lawfully fired a returning Army Reserve veteran for a violent altercation near the workplace and for withholding information about the incident during the Company's investigation.
Coyaso v. Bradley Pacific Aviation 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 1157 (9th Cir. 2014) involved an aircraft refueler who returned from military duty in Kuwait to Kauai. Before applying for reinstatement, he got into an altercation with a female employee of an airplane tour company at the Lihue airport, about 20 feet from the office of Bradley Pacific Aviation.
The employee, Coyaso, was arrested and charged with assault. He then applied for reinstatement with Bradley Pacific Aviation. Bradley rehired him and put him immediately on paid administrative leave pending investigation of the incident. During the investigation, Coyaso declined to explain a gap in a videotape that he took showing the initial moments of the altercation.
The Company concluded, based on its own independent investigation, that Coyaso was the violent aggressor and that he deliberately withheld information during the investigation. The criminal charge was subsequently dropped by the Kauai prosecutor. Coyaso filed suit claiming that his military status was a motivating factor in his termination.
The U.S. District Court reasoned that, "There is no suggestion…that Defendant's investigation was anything but thorough." Bradley Pacific had demonstrated that it would have terminated Coyaso for workplace violence regardless of his protected status. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that there was no evidence indicating that Bradley Pacific did not "honestly believe" that Coyaso was the violent aggressor at the time of its termination decision.