Generally, before filing a lawsuit for disability discrimination one must file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). However, if an employee does not bring this claim they may still bring a lawsuit against an employer for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The California Court of Appeals recently clarified the limitations of a disability discrimination wrongful termination lawsuit in the case of Lee v. Harbor, WL 753877 (February 28, ).
In this case the employer, Harbor, asserted that an employee, Lee, was not able to perform the essential duties of his job even with reasonable accommodation because his position required him to lift 18,000 pounds in cases of beer every day. Further, Harbor argued that Lee was not able to take other positions within the company because there were no vacancies. However, Lee testified that before termination he worked as a transfer driver and that the company seemed to need an extra transfer driver position. Additionally, a former employee said that one of the transfer drivers employed at the time Lee was terminated was in a temporary position.
The court held that Lee’s and the former employee’s observations of the needs of an additional transfer driver could have showed that Harbor’s explanation that no position was open was false. This meant that Lee could have won a wrongful termination claim, and the court sent the case back to the trial court to determine the issues.
Interestingly, the court also held that Lee was entitled to a lawsuit for mixed discrimination. Lee is a 53 year old disabled African American man. The court allowed the mixed discrimination claim to go forward despite Lee not showing additional evidence that race or age played motivating factor in the decision to terminate him besides the fact that he was African American and old enough to qualify for age discrimination protection . This goes to show that the burden of production rests with the employer to show that an employment decision, like termination, was due to a legitimate or non-discriminatory reason.
Contact the Employment Law Attorneys of the Law Offices of Michael S. Cunningham.
Disability discrimination is illegal. An employer must not use an employee’s disability as a reason to take adverse action against her or him. Even if an employee does not pursue a claim under FEHA, they still may sue the employer for a wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The seasoned employment discrimination law experts at the Law Offices of Michael S. Cunningham, LLP can help you assert your legal rights whether you have been wrongfully terminated due to disability, race, or other issue. To learn more schedule a free case evaluation by calling (951) 213-4786 today