California: Voluntarily Resigning in an “Altered Mental State” is Not a Disability Protected from Discrimination


All Employers with CA Employees


April 19, 2017


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The Second District Court of Appeals in California recently determined that an employer’s refusal to allow an employee to rescind her own voluntary resignation is not a valid basis for a disability discrimination lawsuit, even though the employee allegedly tendered her resignation in an “altered mental state.”

This specific set of circumstances arose from Ruth Featherstone v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group (“SCPMG”).  Featherstone, an at-will employee, took medical leave for surgery.  Seven days after returning to work, she called her supervisor to resign from her position.  The supervisor asked Featherstone to confirm her resignation in writing and immediately processed her exit and final paycheck.

Shortly thereafter, Featherstone was hospitalized for behavioral changes, though she still provided confirmation of her resignation in writing upon release.  A few days after that, Featherstone requested that SCPMG reverse her resignation, stating that she suffered adverse side effects from medication when she originally resigned from her position.  SCPMG considered Featherstone’s request, but ultimately decided not to reverse the resignation. Featherstone sued, alleging disability discrimination.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court’s determination in favor of SCPMG.  The company had not coerced Featherstone into resigning, had no knowledge of her ongoing medical status, and there was no employment contract in place between SCPMG and Featherstone.

Though arising from a distinct set of circumstances, this case demonstrates the benefits of maintaining clear documentation of workers’ employment status. 

 Action Items

  1. Review separation procedures to ensure clear documentation and timely action.
  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.

© 2017 ManagEase, Incorporated.

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