California Employers Must Accommodate Non-Disabled Employees Who are Associated with Disabled Individuals

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April 4, 2016

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A California Court of Appeals recently stated that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals who are associated with a disabled individual.  In other words, reasonable accommodations must be provided not only to those who are themselves disabled, but the disabled individuals who are associated with applicants or employees.

The Court’s statement arises from their interpretation of the application of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) in Luis Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express.  Castro-Ramirez, an employee of Dependable Highway Express (“DHE”), requested an accommodation to care for his son prior to hiring.  Castro-Ramirez needed to return home by a certain time each day to operate his son’s dialysis machine.  Castro-Ramirez’s request was initially accommodated by giving him routes scheduled early in the day. However, when Castro-Ramirez’s supervisor changed, the new supervisor revised Castro-Ramirez’s schedule to give him later routes, despite the fact that earlier shifts were available.  The new supervisor refused to accommodate Castro-Ramirez’s renewed request for earlier start times to his shifts, and eventually terminated Castro-Ramirez when he refused to drive a route that would prevent him from getting home in time to care for his son.

The Court stated that FEHA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including the perception that a person is associated with someone who is physically disabled.  Further, FEHA also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who request an accommodation.  The Court determined that a jury could reasonably infer that Castro-Ramirez’s disabled son was a motivating factor for Castro-Ramirez’s termination.

As a result, California employers should be attentive to requests for reasonable accommodation from applicants or employees who are associated with a disabled person.

Action Items

  1. Train manager and supervisors on handling requests for reasonable accommodations from applicants or employees in reference to a disabled associate.
  2. 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.

© 2016 ManagEase, Incorporated.

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