Obtaining Victory for Large Nonprofit Organization in Disability Discrimination Suit
On October 13, 2016, Epstein Becker Green (“EBG”) won a significant victory for a large nonprofit agency in Southern California when the California Court of Appeal upheld the demurrer and judgment granted in our client’s favor in the trial court.
The case involved a single plaintiff who brought multiple causes of action alleging various forms of disability discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and public policy law, following her termination. Plaintiff had fractured her foot and requested a four-week leave of absence. Believing that plaintiff’s injury was not a disability that necessitated such a leave of absence, a manager denied the leave and terminated the plaintiff’s employment.
Recognizing that our client could face potential liability if plaintiff were considered disabled and thus entitled to a reasonable accommodation, the EBG team demurred to the complaint, asserting that a fractured foot is not a “disability” under California law. Although there was a dearth of California precedent on the issue, the EBG team convinced the trial judge to look to federal authority holding that such an injury is not a disability. The trial judge granted the demurrer without leave to amend and entered judgment for our client.
Plaintiff appealed, arguing that California law is more expansive than federal law and that the judge erred in not finding a disability under the more expansive definition. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal, finding that “an injury does not necessarily constitute a disability,” and “the FEHA regulations provide that conditions with little residual effect, such as sprains and other mild conditions, often do not qualify as disabilities under FEHA.”
The EBG team included Adam C. Abrahms and Amy B. Messigian.