California: DFEH Affirms “100% Healed” Policies Violate Employer’s Duty to Accommodate

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February 14, 2017

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California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) recently obtained a $290,000 settlement and reinstatement with reasonable accommodation on behalf of a high school custodian who was fired after sustaining an injury.  This settlement reinforces DFEH’s position that blanket policies requiring employees to be “100% healed” before they return to work violate the employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate an employee disability.

In this case, high school custodian Mark Miguel sustained a back injury in 2013.  Miguel returned to work without a change in his job duties, and was ultimately terminated when the school district advised Miguel that he was unqualified for the position because of his weight lifting restrictions.  The school district utilizes a physical capability test that effectively required Miguel to be completely recovered from his back injury, which the DFEH took issue with.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities.  Employers are required to perform individualized assessments to determine if an employee can complete the position’s job duties, with or without a reasonable accommodation.  The school district’s physical capabilities test, as applied at that time, automatically disqualified Miguel without performing the individualized assessment first.

As a result of the settlement, the school district has since clarified its policies, removed the physical screening test for current employees, and agreed to provide disability accommodation training.

Action Items

  1. Have policies and procedures reviewed for removal of any blanket provisions that condition employment on employees’ complete recovery from injuries.
  2. Have supervisory staff trained on recognizing the need for and initiating the interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2017 ManagEase, Incorporated.

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