The California Supreme Court has made it easier for employers to comply with the disability discrimination provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The court ruled that employees must prove they are qualified for the jobs they seek, not the other way around.
Recent case: Dwight Green, who has hepatitis C, worked for the California Department of Corrections. After being off work because of health complications, he returned to light-duty work but said he wanted his original job back. Green claimed the department then forced him into retirement. He sued.
A jury awarded him $2.6 million. California appealed, based in part on the trial court’s insistence that the employer had to prove Green could not perform the essential functions of his former job with or without accommodations.
The Supreme Court reversed, deciding it was up to Green to prove he could do the job, not his employer to prove that he couldn’t.
The practical result: It will now be harder for employees to successfully sue for disability discrimination under FEHA. (Green v. State of California, No. S137770, Supreme Court of California, 2007)