Last week, in Thomsen v. Georgia-Pacific Corrugated, LLC, a federal district court in California held that an employer might have violated its obligations under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) when it simply told an employee to return to his doctor to obtain a note outlining additional work restrictions.   The Court held that a reasonable jury could find that the employer was obligated to do more than tell the Plaintiff to go back to his physician and get a new doctor’s note, especially because evidence suggested it would have been possible to respond to some of Plaintiff’s concerns without a new doctor’s note.

The Facts

Plaintiff worked as a cut-and-die operator at a corrugated container plant. In May 2012, Plaintiff injured his shoulder at work, went on workers’ compensation leave, and returned to work eight months later after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder.
Continue Reading Employee Who Failed to Provide Additional Doctor Notes to Support New Restrictions May Still Survive Summary Judgment

In Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., decided April 4, 2016, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District held California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are associated with a person with disabilities.

Plaintiff Luis Castro-Ramirez’s son was in need of a kidney transplant, required daily dialysis, and Ramirez was the only member of his family capable of operating the dialysis machine.  Ramirez drove a delivery truck for Dependable Highway Express, Inc. (DHE).  When he began his employment in 2010, he informed his supervisor that he needed to be assigned schedules that would permit him to be home in the evening to administer his son’s dialysis. 
Continue Reading California Court of Appeal Expands FEHA’s Reasonable Accommodation Requirements to Employees Who are Associated with a Person with Disabilities

New California regulations declaring that “[e]mployers have an affirmative duty to create a workplace environment that is free from employment practices prohibited by” the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and that “[e]mployers have an affirmative duty to take reasonable steps to prevent and promptly correct discriminatory and harassing conduct” will go into effect on April 1, 2016.
Continue Reading New California Regulations on Workplace Anti-Harassment, Anti-Discrimination Policies Effective April 1

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) recently issued guidelines on transgender employee rights, addressing what types of questions employers may ask transgender employees and applicants. The guidelines also address how employers can implement dress code and grooming standards, and make suggestions for maintaining employee restrooms.

An employee need not have undergone sex reassignment surgery for these guidelines to apply, as the Fair Employment and Housing Act recognizes “gender expression” as “a person’s gender-related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.” (Govt. Code section 12926(q).) The new guidelines are summarized as follows:
Continue Reading DFEH Issues Guidelines for Protecting Transgender Rights in the Workplace

Navigating the California laws on discrimination and accommodation of pregnant employees is a significant challenge for retail employers. The Golden State’s protections for pregnant employees are many and they differ from those of federal law and of other states.

Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

Under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law, which applies to employers with at

The California Court of Appeal reversed a $1 million judgment against the City of Los Angeles in a racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation case brought by a firefighter under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Jumaane v. City of Los Angeles. After 12 years of litigation and two jury trials, the Court ruled that the firefighter’s claims occurred outside the one-year statute of limitations period and that the “continuing violation” exception to the statute of limitations did not apply.
Continue Reading Reversing $1 Million Judgment against Los Angeles, the California Court of Appeals Ruled Continuing Violation Doctrine did not apply to Firefighter’s Decades-Old Race Discrimination and Harassment Claims

Effective January 1, 2016, an employee’s request for an accommodation for a disability or for religious reasons is considered to be “protected activity” for a retaliation claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).

Continue Reading An Employee’s Request for a Disability or Religious Accommodation Is Considered Protected Activity Under Change to the Fair Employment and Housing Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) both require employers to make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities, provided that the accommodations do not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer.

By definition, a reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job, to an employee’s work environment, or to the way things usually are done that enables a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy an equal employment opportunity. It also is any modification or adjustment that allows an employee to perform the essential functions of a job that similarly situated employees without disabilities hold. The reasonable accommodation process can be tricky to navigate, and mistakes can lead to unwanted litigation. Here is a list to help you identify and avoid the most common employer mistakes.
Continue Reading Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid During the Reasonable Accommodation Process

On July 16, 2015, AB 987 was signed into law by the Governor Jerry Brown which provides a paradigm shift in favor of employees with respect to their retaliation claims. The new law overturns the retaliation holding in Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 635, and makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate or otherwise discriminate against a person for “requesting” an accommodation based on religion or disability. 
Continue Reading California Legislature Overturns Retaliation Holding in Rope v. Auto-Chlor and Classifies a Mere Request for Accommodation as a “Protected Activity”

In a recent Ninth Circuit decision, the court held that “a piece of evidence [may not be disregarded] at the summary judgment stage solely based on its self-serving nature.” As a result, declarations created after summary judgment motions are filed may be sufficient to create genuine issues of material fact and, therefore, defeat summary judgment. This decision is particularly concerning because it allows a party to thwart summary judgment with little to no credible or corroborated evidence.
Continue Reading Follow-up on: Be Careful What You Say—It Might End Up in a Declaration to Defeat Summary Judgment