Telling manager about special ed may trigger FEHA accommodations process

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s known mental disabilities. Under FEHA, something as simple as a new employee telling her manager that she has a learning disability and had taken special education classes triggers the employer’s responsibility to consider accommodations.

Recent case: Leslie Furey, who has learning disabilities, worked for Blockbuster as a cashier. When she transferred to a California store, she informed her manager that she had a learning disability and received special education while in school. While she had managed her job in the previous store, she had more trouble at this location. Over time, Blockbuster cut her hours.

She filed a Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) complaint. Then, when her part-time hours were further reduced and she didn’t get any help mastering the job, she quit and sued. The trial court tossed out her case after ruling she hadn’t requested accommodations.

But the Court of Appeal of California reversed. It concluded Blockbuster had a duty to accommodate Furey once she told her new manager about her special education and learning disability. (Furey v. Blockbuster, No. D049294, Court of Appeal of California, 2007)

Final note: The court also said that filing a disability discrimination complaint with the DFEH triggers an employer’s responsibility to accommodate. If Blockbuster didn’t know before it received the complaint that Furey claimed a disability, it certainly knew after.

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