An employee doesn’t have to tell HR about a disability to gain protection from discrimination. It’s enough for the employee to tell her supervisor.
That’s why it is important to remind supervisors that they need to involve HR as soon as an employee reveals a potential disability.
Recent case: Sophia worked as an on-air personality for Univision when she developed what ultimately turned out to be a benign stomach tumor. She never told HR about her medical problems, but did inform her supervisor directly. She received time off for medical appointments. Eventually, she had surgery.
Then she lost her job due to other work issues. Sophia sued, alleging she was fired for being disabled.
Univision argued it wasn’t liable because since Sophia never told HR, the company didn’t know about the disability. The court rejected that argument, reasoning that telling one’s supervisor amounted to providing notice. (Soria v. Univison, No. B263224, Court of Appeal of California, 2016)