California disability law allows those who are associated with disabled individuals to receive protection against disability discrimination. A recent case from the California Court of Appeals demonstrates this protection.
In Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc. a recently hired employee informed his employer, Auto-Chlor that he intended to donate his kidney to his sister, who was disabled. The employee then attempted to take leave under a new law, the Michelle Maykin Memorial Donation Protection Act (DPA). The manager did not respond, so the employee complained to management. However, 2 days before the law took effect the company terminated the employee for allegedly poor performance.
The employee sued Auto-Chlor for several violations including associational disability discrimination, retaliation for a protected activity, violation of the DPA, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The trial court dismissed the employee’s claims but the court of appeals reversed the decision, allowing the associational disability discrimination and wrongful termination claims to proceed.
California Court of Appeal’s Decision
The court decided that the employee provided enough evidence to show that the employer had discriminated against him based on his relationship to his disabled sister and the fact that the employee would soon become disabled himself after the kidney donation surgery. These facts could have supported a claim for wrongful termination and associational discrimination.
More on Associational Discrimination
The associational discrimination claim is a powerful tool to fight discrimination in the workplace. It covers claims where the employer takes adverse action (such as termination or harassment) against the employee for a disability that an employee’s close family member or spouse has. It also covers claims as the one here in Rope where the employer fears incurring expenses due to the employee’s association with a disabled person. It is possible that an employer may fear that due to the relationship with the disabled person that the employee will have to take time off to care for them, or possibly raise the costs of their medical benefits plan.
Keep in mind that the employer here seemed to be trying to illegally discriminate against the employee before the new law that would have protected him took effect. The employer would not have as much luck now, the DPA is now in effect and protects employees by allowing them to take 30 days off in order to donate organs.
If you have been the victim of discrimination contact an experienced attorney right away. Call the experienced California disability discrimination attorneys of the Law Offices of Michael S. Cunningham, LLP for a free consultation at (951) 213-4786.