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Two Disability Accommodation Cases to Consider

I recently had the opportunity to advise several clients—both employers and employees—regarding their rights and obligations when it comes to a disability accommodation. It is an area that is frequently misunderstood. It’s no wonder so many employers make correct disability accommodations for employees with disabilities. The following two published cases are good examples of how employers and employees can make mistakes.

Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc. 246 Cal.App.4th 180 (2016)

Luis Castro-Ramirez worked for Dependable Highway Express, Inc. as a truck driver.  Luis’ son became ill requiring daily dialysis.  According to the evidence presented, Luis was the only one who could be available to do the dialysis. For several years, Dependable Highway worked with Luis and scheduled him so he could be at home during the evening when it was time to administer the dialysis.  When a new supervisor took over, however, he assigned Luis to a night shift. When Luis had to choose between his son’s dialysis and his job, he chose his son. The supervisor told plaintiff he “had quit by choosing not to take the assigned shift.”

Is An Employer Required To Provide A Disability Accommodation To A Non-Disabled Employee, But Who Needs The Accommodation To Care For A Disabled Child?

According to the California appellate court, although it is a “seldom-litigated cause of action,” an employee who needs to assist a disabled son can proceed with an “associational disability discrimination” claim. Prior to Castro-Ramirez, no published California case had determined whether employers have a duty under FEHA to provide disability accommodations to an applicant or employee who is associated with a disabled person. The Castro-Ramirez court held that “FEHA creates such a duty according to the plain language of the Act.”

The court was not persuaded by cases interpreting similar claims under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the court, “under the ADA, employers need not provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are relatives or associates of the disabled. FEHA’s language is simply not parallel to the ADA in this regard.”

If an employee requests disability accommodation, even if the accommodation is not related to the employee’s disability, employers need to consider whether the law requires the employer to provide the disability accommodation.

Mendoza v. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles 819 F.3d 1204 (9th Cir. 2016)

Alice Mendoza worked full-time for a small parish church as a bookkeeper. She took sick leave for ten months, during which the pastor of the church took over the bookkeeping duties himself and determined that the job could be done by a part-time bookkeeper. When Mendoza returned from sick leave, there no longer was a full-time bookkeeping position, so the pastor offered her a part-time job, which Mendoza declined.

Mendoza sued alleging she the church violated the ADA by discriminating against her and failing to provide a disability accommodation.

Does An Employer Have To Keep A Full-Time Position Open As A Disability Accommodation Even If The Position Does Not Require Full Time Work?

According to the Ninth Circuit, unless the employee can show the employer changed the position to part-time because of the employee’s disability, or that there was another full-time position available that the employee could perform, there is no claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 9th Circuit first determined that “Mendoza failed to raise a triable dispute as to whether the Archbishop’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not returning Mendoza to fulltime work was pretextual,” and therefore could not establish a discrimination or disparate treatment claim.  The court went on to say Mendoza “failed to establish that a full-time position was available,” and therefore could not establish a failure to accommodate claim.

Just because an employee is on a medical leave of absence as a disability accommodation does not mean the employer cannot make changes to the employment.  An employer cannot make changes because the employee went on a disability leave of absence, and the employer is still required to provide a reasonable accommodation for the employee, but the employer does not have to keep a position open that is no longer necessary.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.

 

 

 

Employee Threatening to Kill Co-workers Not a Qualified Individual With a Disability

Although Timothy Mayo was diagnosed in 1999 with major depressive disorder, medication and treatment enabled him to work for CC Structurals, Inc. without significant incident for many years. In 2010, however Mayo and some co- workers began to have issues with a supervisor who they claimed was bullying them and making work life miserable. In response to a complaint, HR met with Mayo and another employee about the supervisor’s behavior.

According to the court:

Shortly after the meeting, Mayo made threatening comments to at least three co-workers. He told one that he “fe[lt] like coming down [to PCC] with a shotgun an[d] blowing off” the heads of the supervisor and another manager. The co-worker need not worry, Mayo explained, because she would not be working the shift when the killing would occur. Mayo told another co-worker on several occasions that he planned to “com[e] down [to PCC] on day [shift] . . . to take out management.” He told a third co- worker that he “want[ed] to bring a gun down [to PCC] and start shooting people.” He explained that “all that [he] would have to do to shoot [the supervisor] is show up [at PCC] at 1:30 in the afternoon” because “that’s when all the supervisors would have their walk-through.”

The co-workers, presumably concerned for their safety and the safety of others, reported Mayo’s comments. The employer suspended Mayo after they asked him if he planned on carrying out his threats and he responded that “he couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t do that.” PCC also notified the police, who questioned Mayo and had him admitted to a psychiatric facility because Mayo, a gun owner, admitted to making the threats and that he had “two or three people in mind,” including his supervisor.

Mayo remained in custody for six days, then took leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act and the Family Medical Leave Act for two months.  Mayo’s doctor cleared Mayo to return to work, indicating Mayo was not a violent person, but recommended Mayo receive a different supervisor.  PCC did not return Mayo to work because, according to PCC, Mayo would not—or could not—guarantee to refrain from similar threats in the future.

Mayo sued PCC contending his termination violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Oregon’s state-equivalent.  The trial court granted PCC’s motion for summary judgment contending “Mayo was no longer a ‘qualified individual’ once he made his ‘violent threats.’ And ‘[b]ecause Mayo [wa]s not a qualified individual,’ he was not ‘entitled to protection under the ADA and Oregon’s disability discrimination statute.’  The appellate court agreed.

Qualified Individual with a Disability

The court determined Mayo could not even make out a prima facie case of discrimination because Mayo was not a “qualified individual” with a disability.  Under both the ADA and Oregon’s analogous law, “an individual is qualified for a position if the individual, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the position.”  The court pointed out that an essential function of almost every job is the ability to appropriately handle stress and interact with others. Citing Williams v. Motorola, Inc., 303 F.3d 1284, 1290 (11th Cir. 2002). “[W]hile an employee can be qualified despite adverse reactions to stress, he is not qualified when that stress leads him to threaten to kill his co-workers in chilling detail and on multiple occasions (here, at least five times).”

Thankfully, workplace threats are not a common occurrence.  When a person’s threatening behavior stems from an underlying medical condition, an employer is faced with two opposing duties: The duty to provide a safe and healthful workplace and the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities.  Mayo v. PCC Structurals may help employers make appropriate decisions when handling similar issues.

If you, or someone you know, has questions about workplace accommodations, or threats of violence in the workplace, contact an experienced employment attorney.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.

The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Pleasanton, Oakland, San Ramon, Hayward, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.