SE HABLA ESPANOL
800.350.0454 310.207.8500

Termination Decisions based on Stereotypes & Disability

Termination Decisions based on Stereotypes & Disability By: Alicia Olivares Employers are prohibited from making adverse employment decisions based on stereotypes and generalizations associated with the individual’s disability rather than on the individual’s actual characteristics. Rodriguez v. ConAgra Grocery Products Co. (5th Cir. 2006) 436 F.3d 468, 480-482. Recently, the Court of Appeals in California held: “Before terminating an employee because of a disability, the employer must individually assess whether the disability actually prevents the employee from performing those functions. Unless the employer conducts an individualized assessment, it cannot have a reasonable, good faith belief in the employee’s inability to perform his or her essential job functions, and therefore lacks a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating the employee.” United Parcel Service, Inc., v. Department of Fair Employment and Housing (April 29, 2014) G049493. In the UPS v. Dept of Fair Employment and Housing case, UPS argued that it reasonably and in good faith believed that the employee could not perform her essential job functions because of the medical restrictions her doctor placed on her, and therefore UPS could not be liable for the termination. The Court found, however, that UPS never individually assessed whether those restrictions actually prevented the employee from performing her essential job functions. “Without that individualized assessment, the medical restrictions do not provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Mason’s employment under the 12-month administrative termination policy.” The Court found that if UPS had conducted the required individualized assessment, it would have discovered that the doctor’s restrictions prevented the employee from performing her essential job functions for only about six months. “UPS assumed Grames’s restrictions prevented Mason from performing her essential job functions without analyzing whether the restrictions actually prevented Mason from doing her job.” The California Court of Appeals found that UPS failed to meet its burden to establish a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for terminating Mason’s employment. An employer’s decision to terminate an employee based on the assumption that a disability or perceived disability prevented the employee from performing his or her essential job functions does not satisfy the employer’s burden of establishing a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the termination because it necessarily relies on prohibited stereotypes and generalizations about the disability. You can find a copy of the decision here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/nonpub/G049493.PDF If you need more information on this topic, or would like a free legal consultation on any workplace rights issue, please contact the California Labor and Employment Attorneys at Feldman Browne Olivares, APC. You can reach us at (800)350-0454 or (310)552-7812.