• Sat. Nov 27th, 2021

[COLUMN] Dismissal of employee during medical treatment violates disability discrimination laws –

ByMadeleine J. Pierce

Oct 30, 2021

Albert and Stephanie Garcia, a married couple, were hired in 2013 by Sierra Management to work as on-site managers of an 81-unit apartment building in Canoga Park. The Garcias received a monthly salary and received free housing in the same building.

In March 2017, Albert Garcia was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and began to undergo treatment. The Garcias informed their employer of Mr. Garcia’s diagnoses. The Garcias have asked for reasonable accommodations because Mr. Garcia’s surgeries, radiation therapy and other treatments forced him to suspend his duties.

In September 2017, employers would have become “visibly unhappy” with Albert Garcia’s need to take time off and provide him with housing. The Garcias alleged that they had been avoided and scrutinized. Two weeks before Thanksgiving 2017, the Garcias were laid off from their jobs, resulting in the loss of their apartment.

The Garcias sued their former employers alleging unfair dismissal based on disability discrimination and other violations of the employment and housing provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The lawsuit claimed that the real reason for their dismissal was Mr. Garcia’s state of health and / or disability, as well as his request for accommodation.

California law prohibits discrimination based on disability or medical condition. The employer has a duty to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities to enable them to work despite their disability. Depending on the employee’s specific restrictions and the employer’s situation, an example of reasonable accommodation would be:

1) offer part-time or modified work schedules.

2) accommodate the employee’s return to work with restrictions.

3) make facilities accessible and usable by people with disabilities

In Mr. Garcia’s case, the employer had a duty to engage in an interactive process and to determine whether reasonable accommodation would allow the employee to perform his duties. Mr. Garcia said that despite his diagnosis, he could have continued to assume the responsibilities of resident property manager. As a reasonable accommodation, the employer could have extended Mr. Garcia’s leave. In addition, as a cancer patient, Mr. Garcia can only be disabled temporarily. If that was the case, reasonable accommodation could have enabled the employee to continue working.

Discriminated employees can obtain the following legal remedies: back pay, hiring, promotion, reinstatement, initial compensation, compensatory damages, including pain and emotional suffering, and in cases of more serious violations, damages. punitive. Affected employees can also recover attorney fees, expert witness fees and court costs.

The Garcia case was tried in Los Angeles Superior Court. After 10 days of trial, the jury sided with the Garcias. The jury awarded Albert Garcia $ 2.35 million in compensatory damages for lost wages and emotional distress and $ 4 million in punitive damages. Stéphanie Garcia was awarded $ 30,725 in compensatory damages and $ 1.25 million in punitive damages for a total verdict of $ 7,633,650. The Garcias were also entitled to legal fees, which the employer must pay.

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The law firms of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcome inquiries on this matter. All requests are confidential and free of charge. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]

(Advertising supplement)

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