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Disability Rights Expanded to Family Members

Posted on in Employment

In a move described as "going where no court has gone before," a California Court of Appeals ruled that an employer may be liable under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for failing to accommodate a non-disabled employee's request to care for his disabled family member.

The FEHA requires that an employer must make reasonable accommodations not only for an individual with a disability or perceived to have a disability; but for a person associated with such an individual. The court in the instant case found that the appellant had been terminated for requesting a scheduling accommodation which would have enabled him to care for his disabled son, and that this termination constituted associational disability discrimination. (Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc. (California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District, 4/4/16))

The decision will no doubt be appealed; nevertheless, it has profound implications for both employers and employees who are the caregivers of disabled family members. The appellant in this case had informed his employer that he needed a specific schedule in order to care for his son, and a previous manager had given him that accommodation. Employees must be able to freely tell their employers about such situations, and employers must know the potential consequences of failing to accommodate such requests.

If an employee believes that his or her request for reasonable accommodations have been ignored or denied, consultation with an attorney knowledgeable in disability and employment law is essential before proceeding further. This area of law is constantly evolving, and competent legal advice should be obtained if one believes one's rights have been violated. Please contact us for more information.

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