‘Boss-ectomy’ not what FEHA doctor ordered

When working for a particular boss stresses employees, they will often seek a transfer. Sometimes, they may even go out on disability leave if they can persuade a health care provider to write a letter stating they can’t work for their old supervisor and need to be transferred as a reasonable accommodation. That’s sometimes called a “boss-ectomy.”

Fortunately, under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employees who say they can’t work under a particular supervisor are not deemed to be disabled. Therefore, they aren’t entitled to any accommodation.

Recent case: Brian worked for the California Department of Motor Vehicles in information technology. Back in 2009, he discovered what he thought was a security flaw in the system. It allowed him to view employees’ personal information and Social Security numbers. He reported it and the state launched an investigation.

Brian was moved to a new cubicle and his computer was seized for analysis. The state determined that Brian hadn’t done anything wrong in accidentally accessing the secure information.

However, he believed he remained under a cloud of suspicion and took medical leave to deal with the stress. After he returned to work, he said his boss continued to mistreat him. Brian’s doctor said he should not have to work with that supervisor going forward.

When the state denied Brian’s request, he sued for failure to reasonably accommodate his mental condition.

The court dismissed his lawsuit, reasoning that not being able to work for a particular supervisor was not a disability. (Burch v. California, ED CA, 2017)

Final note: Brian also claimed he experienced retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation under the FEHA. But he first made the claim in 2011. The court dismissed the retaliation claim because at the time, FEHA did not consider requesting an accommodation that was denied to be protected activity. As of Jan. 1, 2016, it does.