Glynn v Superior Court 2019
This is an important case for employees that states that when an employee is terminated due to the employer's mistaken belief of total disability, the employee may sue for disability discrimination even if the employer does not show any animosity towards the employee.
Here, the employee was a pharmaceutical sales representative for the company Allergan. While he was working for the company, the sales representative developed an eye condition that prevented him from being able to drive a car which he used to make his sales calls. The employee took a short-term medical leave of absence and also requested that his company reassign him to a position that would not require him to drive a car.
For the next 6 months, the employee sent many emails to the human resources department and also submitted applications for other internal positions with the company that did not require driving. However, a mistake was made by the company's HR department which made a clerical error and changed the employees' status from “short-term disability” to “long-term disability”. Due to this clerical error, the company’s computer showed that the employee was unable to return to work, with or without a reasonable accommodation. As a result of the mistake, the HR department believed that they were required to terminate the employee because of the company policy to terminate those who were unable to return to work.
Allergan’s HR department notified the employee that he had been terminated. The employee, however, had not actually been approved for the long-term disability benefits and had not requested them either. So, he immediately emailed and called his employer many times over the next few weeks, in attempts to correct the mistake and have himself designated correctly as short-term disability, which would mean that he could return to work. However, the company refused to correct the mistake and so the employee filed a lawsuit against his company as a result. The judge actually granted the company's motion to dismiss the case and so the employee had to fight harder by filing an appeal.
When the employee’s case was heard by the California Court of Appeals, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s order that dismissed the employee’s case for disability discrimination. The Court of Appeal said that it was clear that the HR department made a mistake by mis-categorizing the employee as being totally disabled and unable to perform any work. It was the company's mistake that led to the employee being fired. Importantly for employees, the Court of Appeal ruled that even if the company's mistakes were reasonable and in good faith, the employee should not be the one that suffers from such a mistake.
As a result of this case, we now know that in California an employer can be liable for disability discrimination even if the company did not discriminate on purpose as here, where it was actually a mistake by the employer and not technically done on purpose with animosity towards the employee. The employee should not be refused compensation because of the mistakes of the employer. The employer terminated the plaintiff's employment because of Allergan’s HR's mistaken belief that he was unable to perform any work because he was disabled.
This case is an example of how employees sometimes have to fight hard to get justice in the court. That is what we do for our clients is to fight hard so that they can get their justice. This case also is important to let employees know that they must continue to contact their employers when mistakes are made and to always do it in writing so that there is a record moving forward in case there is a lawsuit. Emails and text messages are a great way to communicate with your employer over issues such as this - where the employer makes a mistake that hurts the employee. These cases are much harder to win if the employee has no record of their attempts to correct the mistakes of the employer. Employees need to always send text messages and emails so that there is a documented record. This way your employer cannot later say that you did not try to fix their error.
If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you because of a disability, please call us today for a free consultation. Our experienced employment rights attorneys can discuss your situation with you and determine if you have a case for disability discrimination. Call Nassiri Law today at 949-375-4734 to speak with an experienced employment rights attorney.