According to a press release by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), United Parcel Service (UPS) must pay more than $96,000 in damages after the company fired an employee because of her disability. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission (Commission) determined that UPS had unlawfully terminated their worker, Eva Linda Mason, in spite of the fact she was able to perform the essential functions of her job. Ms. Mason began her employment with UPS in 1997 and, although she occasionally located packages in a warehouse, handling packages was not part of her job. After Ms. Mason had knee surgery and took a leave of absence to recover in 2007, she continued to carry out the essential customer service functions of her job. Nonetheless, UPS considered Ms. Mason as disabled because she had some restrictions, such as limited standing, walking, bending, and kneeling. Because the company had a 12- month cap on the length of time employees with disabilities could be reasonably accommodated from their regular duties. UPS fired Ms. Mason in August 2008. The Commission found this arbitrary limit of 12 months was unlawful, and ordered UPS to pay just over $96,000.00 in damages, which included a $10,000.00 administrative fine to the State.
See the DFEH press release HERE.
Under California law, where an employer draws distinctions among their employees on the basis of physical or mental disability the law is not violated by that fact alone. Rather, drawing these distinctions is prohibited only if the adverse employment action occurs because of a disability and the disability would not prevent the employee from performing the essential duties of the job, at least not with reasonable accommodation. In order to establish that a defendant employer has discriminated on the basis of disability in violation of the FEHA, the plaintiff employee bears the burden of proving he or she was able to do the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. Where an employee cannot perform the essential functions of their job even with reasonable accommodation, an employer may terminate the employee. However, in the case above, UPS did not terminate their employee for not being able to perform her job, but fired her simply because their "one-year" limit on the accommodation had been reached. This was unlawful.
Compensation for victims of wrongful termination should be an important concern for all Californians. When a business terminates their employee because of a disability, the fired employes should be compensated. An Orange County trial lawyer with experience at handling such cases can make a fair assessment of these claims. Mr. Ralph has more than 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, including just this type. He can be reached at 714-919-4415 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Have you been a victim of a wrongful termination?
Nothing in this post is intended to suggest the Law Offices of Paul W. Ralph currently represents anyone involved in the news story above. This posting should not be construed as legal advice or an opinion on the merit of any particular matter. A consultation is the best way to obtain an assessment of your potential case.