Category: Disability Discrimination

Rand Paul Doesn’t Believe You’re Disabled, But California Does

One big debate in recent news was stirred by politician Rand Paul’s comments about employees on disability.  Sen. Paul suggested more than half of disabled employees were “malingers” – liars who fake illness just to get out of having to work.  Sen. Paul went on to belittle the majority of disabled employees, saying they are just “anxious or their back hurts” and they are not “truly disabled.”

While being a paraplegic is apparently enough for Sen. Paul to consider you “horrifically disabled” and therefore entitled to help – despite the number of persons which similar conditions who are nonetheless hardworking, employed individuals – Sen. Paul suggested that employees suffering from mental disorders and disabilities were simply “gaming the system.”

Fortunately, California law takes a very different view, recognizing that there are a number of disabilities that can make it difficult to work or engage in other major life activities.  While Sen. Paul treats the 14% of disabled employees with mood disorders as freeloaders, California law specifically recognizes the disabling effect of these disorders and protects employees “[h]aving any mental or psychological disorder or condition, such as intellectual disability, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, or specific learning disabilities, that limits a major life activity.”  In fact, two examples, clinical depression and bipolar disorder, are even mentioned in the text of the law.

As an employee in California, you are entitled to certain rights and protections if you are disabled, including reasonable accommodations for any work restrictions and protection from discrimination or being fired because of your disability, including mental illnesses.  Unfortunately, some companies act more like Sen. Rand Paul than law-abiding California corporations and fail to help and protect their disabled employees.  If you have been the victim of disability discrimination or mistreatment by your employer because of a disability, we may be able to help.

Costco to Pay For Firing an Employee & Fabrication of Write Up

costco forkliftA Riverside County Superior Court jury awarded a former employee of Costco a sizeable settlement for his disability discrimination and wrongful termination claims.

Jose A. Rivera worked for Costco in 2012. He was a forklift operator who took multiple medical leaves to treat shoulder, knee, and back injuries. At the end of his tenure, Rivera was investigated and accused of sexually harassing a female supervisor. The supervisor alleged that Rivera yanked her back and spun her around. Rivera’s attorney contended that Rivera, a native Spanish speaker, was only interviewed and investigated in English. Also, in order to paint Rivera in an irresponsible light, the general manager of that location emailed Rivera’s medical records to investigators, establishing he had missed substantial amounts of work.

Rivera’s attorney pointed out how odd Costco’s conduct was of this particular investigation; it did not follow Costco corporate’s standard protocol and procedures. The jury agreed that the investigation was a pretext to terminate Rivera for his disability.

The jury awarded Rivera a combined $1.7 million– $1.18 million for disability discrimination and $500,000 for defamation. Rivera’s attorneys commented that this kind of verdict for Riverside County was rare and unique, especially “for someone making $21 an hour.”

Source: Daily Journal

If You Want to Report by Telegraph, Do it Before January 1st

telegraphThough email has been an effective and accepted form of communications for the last few decades, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health Standards did not accept reports of injury, illness, or death via email…until now.

Signed by Governor Jerry Brown last month, AB 326 will amend Section 142.5 of the Labor Code to allow said reports to be made electronically. Previously the existing law provided that reports be made either on the phone or via telegraph. Clearly the law had not been touched for many, many years.

The new revision will replace telegraph with email and removes all language pertaining reports done via telegraph. Too bad, we wanted to see a return of Morse Code.

Source: Assembly Bill 326

The Pitfalls of Using Social Media to Hire—Or Not Hire—Prospective Employees

Carol Miaskoff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) recently spoke on a panel at a Federal Trade Commission Workshop regarding the use of social media to screen employment candidates.

Miaskoff warned employers to be cognizant of using social media because the company can uncover a variety of information that alludes to the applicants’ protected statuses (i.e. race, gender, or disability). In some cases, the decision not to hire someone based on their social media account can be interpreted as a violation of labor law, especially if a company decides not to hire someone once discovering their sexual orientation or that the prospective employee is pregnant, as an example.

Employers must not use prospective workers’ social media sporadically, but instead, should utilize it consistently with all applicants. Again, the employer may be at fault for using social media discriminatorily, but some may argue that employers can use social media for good cause.

Source: National Law Review

Image Source: Geekfairy.co.uk

Your Private Information Is Just That: Private

Sometimes, your boss knows things about you that you don’t want your coworkers to know.  Maybe you have a disability, or are going through marital troubles, or are being treated for bipolar disorder.

There are often good reasons you have to tell your supervisor things like this.  Maybe you explained why you had to miss work one day, or why you were so upset at work.  Just because you tell your boss, however, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him or her to tell everyone else.

California has a law that makes it illegal to publicly disclose private facts in certain situations.  For Melissa Ignat, the law became a reality when she missed work because of her bipolar disorder, and her boss shockingly decided to tell all of her coworkers about it while she was out.  Ms. Ignat had not told her coworkers about her bipolar disorder and was very upset that her supervisor had done so.

Worse, her coworkers started avoiding her and treating her differently.  One even asked the boss if Ms. Ignat was going to “go postal” and harm them because of her disorder.

It is not just poor managing or gossip for a supervisor to share your private information – it can even be against the law.  Employees are supposed to be able to feel comfortable talking to their bosses when there is something going on in their lives that may affect their work.  Bosses like Ms. Ignat’s, however, are one of many reasons employees often feel uncomfortable talking to their supervisors about important topics.

We will have to wait until her trial against the company next year to find out whether a jury agrees that Ms. Ignat’s boss broke the law, but if you have been the victim of a supervisor’s public disclosure of your private information, you don’t have to wait that long.  Contact an Aegis attorney if Ms. Ignat’s situation sounds familiar to you.