Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), heart disease is a disability. The employee doesn’t have to prove that in his particular case, the condition limits a major life activity.
Recent case: Robbie was fired for alleged, but believed the real reason was disability discrimination. Reason: On a discharge form, a check mark had appeared in a box labeled “health.”
He claimed his employer knew about his heart condition because some health-related incidents that occurred at work.
The employer accommodated Robbie’s heart condition by allowing him to attend quarterly meetings remotely so he would not risk having a health incident away from home.
Robbie sued for disability discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and.
The employer argued he had to prove he was disabled by showing that his heart condition substantially impaired a major life function.
The court disagreed. It said Robbie was not required to present evidence that his heart condition limited a major life activity because heart disease constitutes a physical disability as a matter of law under FEHA.
And by checking “health” on the discharge form, the employer created a triable issue over whether Robbie was fired for poor performance or because he had heart disease. (Mitchell v. Delphinus Engineering, No. D065854, Court of Appeal of California, 2015)
Advice: Go over your discharge forms to make sure they contain nothing that could be interpreted as evidence of discrimination.