California continues to advance towards the most liberal state in the union with this expansion of Reasonable Accommodation.
The Fair Employment and Housing Act deems employer must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are associated with a person who has disabilities. This was the judgement in the Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc.
The needed Reasonable Accommodation
As Paul Harvey would say here is the rest of the story. Plaintiff Luis Castro-Ramirez’ son needed to have a kidney transplant and required daily dialysis. As it turned out Mr. Ramirez was the only family member who had the ability to operate the dialysis.
Ramirez was a delivery truck driver for Dependable Highway Express, Inc. In 2010 when Mr. Ramirez was hired for (DEH) he informed his supervisor that he had to have a schedule that would accommodate him time in the evening so that Mr. Ramirez would be able to care for his son which would include doing the dialysis.
DEH provides the needed Accommodation
For almost three years, everything was fine. Mr. Ramirez was granted the schedule needed in order for Mr. Ramirez to accommodate his son’s needs. However, in 2013 things changed. In that year of 2013 Mr. Ramirez was given a new supervisor. When Mr. Ramirez knew that he had a new supervisor he requested the new supervisor to accommodate his situation concerning his son and the special needs that his son had.
DEH’s new supervisor over Mr. Ramirez chooses not to Accommodate.
The new supervisor denied Mr. Ramirez’s request and scheduled him a route that would not allow for him to take care of his son. Upon hearing this Mr. Ramirez requested another route, but that was also denied. Because Mr. Ramirez refused his new route DHE terminated his employment with them.
Mr. Ramirez decides to sue after being terminated
At that point Mr. Ramirez sued DHE for disability discrimination based upon association with a person who has a disability. Additionally, Ramirez sued DHE for failure to accommodate, that part of the suit was soon dropped.
The main point to the suit that Mr. Ramirez filed was that the failure of DHE to provide him with a schedule that would accommodate the needs of his son was in itself discrimination.
The Trial Judge denies the claim, and the appellate court say yes to Mr. Ramirez.
The trial judge did not agree and then Mr. Ramirez appealed his case. The court of appeals did not agree with the trial judge and reversed the trial judges’ decision. The appellate court ruled that the FEHA’S statutory language defining “physical disability” also included a person who is associated with a person who had disabilities.
What this means to employers
What this means to employers is that an employee could now be entitled to reasonable accommodations based on the fact that he or she is associated with disabilities.
However, this decision of the appellate court was not unanimous. One of the judges made the point that Mr. Ramirez could have use the California Family Rights Act so in view of that there was not a need to expand the protections into FEHA.
Even though the FEHA provides more protections than the ADA, the dissenting judge warned that the courts should not be expanding the protections without the Legislature’s clear direction.
Now because of this new court decision, Employers must now give proper consideration to requests by employees for an accommodation due to their association with a person with disabilities.
This obligation is in addition to an employer’s responsibility to grant leave under the CFRA to provide care for a family member. Management and human resources personnel need to be aware of this new requirement.
What employers in California need to do to protect their rights.
In my humble opinion California with all of these new laws is simply driving businesses out of California. If the state continues to go in this direction the only ones here to tax with be the lawmakers.
I would like to give all California Employers a couple of words of advice. Number one keep yourselves current with new laws. While the laws in California are changing rapidly, you the employer will not be given a pass because you were unfamiliar with the new law.
Secondly if you have not developed a good employee handbook get one. Make sure that the person or company that does your employee handbook is well versed in the new laws as well as the older law.
Developing and employing your Company Handbook today is the best line of defense that you can have as it applies to keeping out of court.