Rope v. Auto-Chlor Sys. of Wash, Inc

An employee may seek a claims for wrongful discharge and discrimination, by terminating an employee who seeks medical employment leave resulting from a voluntary donation of his kidney pursuant to a state program.

In this case, an employee requested from his employer an extended leave so that he could donate his kidney to his sister pursuant to a Donation Protection Act (DPA) which required employers to grant such requests and provide paid leave. The employer in this case after learning of such request, terminated the employee approximately two days prior to the DPA becoming effective law. In response, the employee filed claims against the employer for wrongful termination pursuant to California’s Labor Code, the Fair Housing and Employment Act (“FEHA”). The trial court dismissed the employer plaintiffs’ claims on the basis of insufficient evidence.

The Court of Appeals

The California Court of Appeals affirmed and reversed in part. WIth respect to the employee’s claim that the termination violated the DPA, the Court determined that since the DPA was not in effect at the time of the employee’s termination, that there could be no violation. Additionally, the Court found the employee’s claims regarding violations of the whistleblower statutes did not apply, especially where there whistleblower laws violated, especially where no reports were made by the employee regarding any wrongdoing. The California Court of Appeals also determined there could be no legally cognizable claims for wrongful or retaliatory discharge, because employee was not engaged in any protected conduct, especially since the termination occurred prior to when the DPA was in effect, and as such, any prospective violations at the time, preceded protection under the DPA.

The Court did determine though, that the employee did have a valid claim for “associational” discrimination where the basis for employee’s termination, was to assist in the donation of his kidney to his disabled sister, wherein the employer decided upon learning of such disabled association, to effectuate termination. As the Court reasoned, the employer upon learning of such disabled association had an incentive to then terminate the employee, which would have alleviated the need to pay employee for the extended leave. As such, the termination by employer rose to the level of associational discrimination including wrongful termination as it related to associational disability, where the Court determined an employee cannot be terminated merely by assisting disabled individuals.

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment disability and accommodation based claims. If you have any employment-related dispute and are considering suing your employer or an employer involved with disability based claims contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.