It is surprising how often I hear about a manager who knows their employee to be sick, hurt, or otherwise protected under California disability laws, and instead of engaging in the interactive process or talking to HR, they take some type of adverse action in an attempt to either force the employee to quit or to show that the employee cannot perform their job functions and must be fired. It is common, and it is illegal.
If an injured, sick, or mentally ill employee is terminated, demoted, written up or otherwise has adverse action taken against them, they may bring claims based on their disability or medical condition.
California law is broad, all encompassing, and meant to protect employees. A disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a major life activity such as walking, eating, breathing, sleeping, or working. The law states is meant to be broadly construed to protect as many people as possible. Examples of what may be considered a disability are diseases such as cancer, physical ailments such as a bad back, or mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder.
Even Employees with temporary conditions, such as a broken wrist, are protected.
If an employee has a qualifying disability or medical condition, an employer must engage in the interactive process with them to find a reasonable accommodation to all them to continue working. A reasonable accommodation can be anything, including new office equipment, changes to the work schedule, transfer to a different position, more rest breaks, or additional time off.
California requires the employer engage in the interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations to their employees unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship, which is a high threshold for an employer to meet.
If an employee is illegally terminated because of their disability or medical condition, or otherwise discriminated against because of it, they may bring significant claims against the employer, including claims for disability discrimination, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to provide reasonable accommodations, and infliction of emotional distress. Compensation for such illegal activity may include lost and future wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damage awards.
Claims of this nature have a one-year statute of limitations, so anyone being discriminated against should act quickly to seek justice.
This publication is not intended to provide legal advice but to provide general information on legal issues. It is not intended to create and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.