A recent unpublished decision from the Fourth District of the California Court of Appeals upheld the reinstatement of an employee after the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (which has since been abolished in favor of the Fair Employment and Housing Council) filed a disability discrimination complaint against UPS.
After an administrative hearing, the Commission ordered UPS to reinstate the employee. UPS appealed.
Plaintiff injured her knee and eventually UPS terminated her employment because, UPS admits, perceived plaintiff as suffering from a disability. UPS made a couple of big mistakes here: First, UPS required plaintiff to get a complete release from her physician and second, UPS never individually assessed whether or not plaintiff could perform the essential duties of her job with or without a reasonable modification.
Many employers get caught in this trap when an employee suffers a work-related injury (or even if the injury is nonindustrial). UPS started down the slippery slope when it determined its responsibility to plaintiff ended after UPS alleged plaintiff exhausted her 12-month leave. Many employers with leave policies like this simply assume that an employee who has a disability and has used all available leave time can be fired.
But the employer still has obligations under FEHA to go through the interactive process and checking to see if a reasonable modification might be some additional leave time.
This is a good case for employees because it reemphasizes existing law in an area where employers often fail to follow the law. It’s too bad the opinion is unpublished!
United Parcel Service, Inc. v. Department of Fair Employment and Housing,
2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3048.