DFEH Charged San Diego Credit Union with Failing to Accommodate Disabled Employee « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles

DFEH Charged San Diego Credit Union with Failing to Accommodate Disabled Employee

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers with five or more on payroll to engage in an “interactive process” with a worker requesting disability-related accommodation. The employer must have timely, good faith and ongoing discussions to explore if and how to reasonably accommodate the  physically or mentally disabled worker’s ability to perform the essential functions of his or her job. Failure to do so can be a costly error.

On January 8, 2019, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing  (DFEH) announced that it settled a reasonable accommodation case with California Coast Credit Union (Credit Union) for $30,000.

Complainant’s doctor ordered her to work a reduced schedule due to her disability, which Credit Union initially accommodated. However, Credit Union terminated her employment after she provided a new doctor’s note and requested an extension of the accommodation.

In response, the former employee filed a DFEH complaint for lost wages and emotional distress, alleging that Credit Union discriminated against and terminated her because of her disability.

DFEH Director Kevin Kish stated in the press release: “An employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate an employee with a disability does not necessarily expire at the conclusion of the time period listed on a doctor’s note. When an employee requests an extension of the accommodation period based on a new doctor’s note, the employer has a duty to continue the interactive process to determine if an extension would pose an undue hardship.”

In addition to the $30,000 settlement amount, Credit Union also agreed to update its company policies and train its supervisors and human resources personnel for three years.

Employers should always proceed with caution when responding to an employee’s request for disability accommodation. This includes properly engaging in an ongoing, thorough, fair and well-documented interactive process.

The employer is only justified in refusing to reasonably accommodate the disabled employee where accommodation choices would legitimately impose undue hardship. The undue hardship standard is difficult to satisfy and the employer should consult with competent and experienced legal counsel before making that determination.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

See also:

Cindy Bamforth

February 14, 2019

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