Ruling in reasonable accommodation for disabilities reversed

By Dawn Geske | Apr 19, 2017

LOS ANGELES – A ruling that provided for reasonable accommodation for employees with disabled associates has been reversed.

The case Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express was recently reversed by the California Court of Appeals. The case revolved around Luis Castro-Ramirez and his employer Dependable Highway Express (DHE), which according to Castro-Ramirez, prevented him from being home to provide dialysis to his son, who was in need of a kidney transplant. 

For three years, DHE allowed Castro-Ramirez to be home in the evenings with his son but later announced a shift change in his position that would affect his ability to be home during the time that his son needed his dialysis treatment.

Castro complained to his manager but was later terminated for failing to adhere to the new schedule. Castro claimed that he was terminated for being associated with a disabled person and filed suit citing disability discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation under the Fair Employment Housing Act. 

Upon appeal of the case, the court held that reasonable accommodation should be made for Castro-Ramiez to tend to his son. The court later reversed its decision, upholding that this accommodation is not necessary as Castro-Ramiez had dropped the claim as part of his suit. 

In its decision, the appeals court maintained that it couldn’t rule on a claim that was dismissed by the plaintiff, it but did uphold that the possibility is there for discrimination based on association under FEHA and American Disabilities Act (ADA). 

“Both the ADA and the FEHA prohibit an employer to deny equal jobs or benefits to an individual because of their relationship to or association with a disabled person,” Colleen M. Regan, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw, told the Northern California Record. “However, neither statute requires the employer to make 'reasonable accommodation' to permit the employee who is not himself or herself disabled to care for the person with a disability."

In California, there is no law requiring an employer to provide reasonable accommodation for an individual that is associated with an individual that is disabled, but discrimination must not occur to a person that is associated with someone with a disability, Castro-Ramiez claimed in his suit. 

“The employee could have rights under the Family & Medical Leave Act [or] Family Rights Act to take time off to care for a disabled family member (assuming the employer is covered and the employee is eligible),” Regan said. “Also, the employee may have a right to use California paid sick leave to care for the disabled relative. But other than that, no court has gone so far as to say that there is a right for the employee in this situation to receive special accommodation, either under the ADA or the FEHA.” 

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