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California Court Rules That Disability Discrimination Doesn’t Have to Be Intentional

California Court Rules That Disability Discrimination Doesn’t Have to Be Intentional

Even if a company does not purposefully discriminate, it may be liable for disability discrimination.

California Court Rules That Disability Discrimination Doesn’t Have to Be Intentional

If you have experienced any type of discrimination at work, it probably doesn’t matter much to you if the discrimination was intentional. After all, you are still being discriminated against — so you don’t care if your employer or coworker meant to do it. You felt the impact of discrimination, regardless of what the intent may have been.

This often occurs in the context of disabilities. In many situations, a company policy that may not be discriminatory on its face may actually discriminate against people with disabilities. For example, if your employer has a rule about the number of breaks that you can take during the day, but you have a health condition that requires frequent trips to the bathroom, the effect of applying that rule to you could be discriminatory.

Recently, a California appeals court determined that even in situations where your employer did not intend to discriminate against you on the basis of your disability, they could still be held liable for discrimination. As a California employment discrimination attorney can explain, this ruling is important because the court held that an employer does not need to have any sort of hostility towards a person to be responsible for disability discrimination.

In the case, a pharmaceutical sales representative requested a leave of absence from his employer because he had an eye condition that prevented him from driving. The employer granted the leave, but did not agree to reassign the sales rep to a new position that would not require driving. From there, a member of the company’s benefits department decided that this employee must have transitioned from short-term to long-term disability leave — and could not work either with or without a reasonable accommodation. This staffer then fired the sales rep, based on a policy of terminating the employment of individuals on long-term disability, and the company refused to re-hire him even when he tried to explain that he wasn’t actually on long-term disability.

After the employee filed a lawsuit based on disability discrimination, the employer tried to re-hire him — without identifying any specific position. The sales rep declined, and the lawsuit proceeded. After the lower court dismissed his case, the sales rep appealed the decision — and the appeals court found that even though the policy was applied to this employee by mistake, the company could still be held liable for its discriminatory impact. The court determined that “…even a legitimate company policy, if mistakenly applied” can be a basis for a disability discrimination claim.

Employment law claims are complicated, with both federal and state law applying to these types of lawsuits. There are also specific procedures to follow for filing a discrimination claim, and deadlines that must be met. For this reason, it is vital to consult with a California employment discrimination attorney if you believe that you have suffered any type of workplace discrimination.

PLBSH is dedicated to helping employees who have faced workplace discrimination achieve justice. With substantial experience and a track record of success, we are well-suited to handle a range of discrimination claims. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or info@plbsh.com to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.

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