Employer Retaliation Caution

Earlier this month, the California Governor signed assembly bill 987 to expand provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits harassment and discrimination based on protected classifications. Under this bill, employers may not retaliate or otherwise discriminate against a person for requesting an accommodation for a disability or religious reason, regardless of whether the request is granted.

This bill was signed in response to a recent court decision (Rope v. Auto-Clor System of Washington, Inc., 220 Cal. App. 4th 635 (2013)) which held that an employer was not at fault for firing an employee because he requested an accommodation to take time off to donate a kidney to his disabled sister. However, assembly bill 987 now clarifies that employers are not allowed to terminate an employee because he or she requests a reasonable accommodation for a disability or religious value.

Employers must handle termination of employees who have requested an accommodation for a disability or religious reason with caution to insure that their conduct is not seen as retaliatory or discriminatory. Now, a request for a reasonable accommodation for a disability or religious reasons is considered “protected activity” by the court.

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