Lawler v. Montblanc N. A.

Disability discrimination, retaliation, and harassment claims pursuant to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) by an employee against an employer were without merit where employee failed to make a prima facie showing that alleged discrimination resulted from the inability to perform certain duties.

In this case, the employee was a manager of one of employer’s retail stores, whom duties included hiring, training, overseeing the store, and supervising store staff. At some point, employee was diagnosed with a chronic ailment resulting in her physician requesting a reduced work schedule to twenty hours per a week, and later suffered a slip and fall resulting in her having to seek temporary disability and a leave of absence, which was later extended per the request of her physician including advising that no accommodation would permit the employee to be present at the store.

As as result, the employer advised the employee that her regular attendance and presence at the store was necessary and as such, terminated her employment. The employee then filed claims pursuant to the California Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA), for disability, discrimination, retaliation and harassment. The trial court, finding that there was no genuine issues of material fact to substantiate the employee’s disability, discrimination, retaliation, and harassment claims, dismissed such case on the employer’s motion for summary judgement. The significance of this case, is the Court’s recognition that for an employee to actually be able to adequately assert disability based employment claims, he or she needs to at a minimum, be able to actually perform such employee based duties and responsibilities, to demonstrate the prima facie case that but for such discrimination, he or she is still able to adequately perform and otherwise function as an employee.

The Court of Appeals

The Ninth Circuit for the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling, reasoning in pertinent part, that for the employee to assert legally cognizable claims for disability discrimination, she had to demonstrate her ability to perform the essential duties of her job and where as store manager, she was required to be physically present at the store. Given that the employee acknowledged in the course of her depositions that her disability prevented her from actually performing her in-store related duties, the Court held that the employee was not able to demonstrate a prima facie case for discrimination.

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment discrimination claims and wrongful discharge. If you have any employment-related dispute and are considering suing your employer for wrongful or retaliatory conduct contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.

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