Attorneys Navid Yadegar and Navid Soleymani recently won a hotly contested arbitration involving employment discrimination. The case involved a woman, Elizabeth Carter, who was fired for her disability. At issue in the case was whether the employer, Dunn Edwards, had an obligation to keep employing Ms. Carter even though she could not perform some of the duties of her position due to her disability.
Ms. Carter’s story began when she submitted an employment application to work for Dunn-Edwards. In this application, Dunn-Edwards indicated that its employees would have to lift “items, such as sundries or containers of paint weighting from 5 to 72 pounds.” Dunn-Edwards then inquired if Ms. Carter is “able to perform the essential job functions of this position.” To that question, Ms. Carter replied “No.” The next question inquired if Ms. Carter requires “any reasonable accommodation to perform this job.” Ms. Carter replied “yes.” On that same application she indicated “max lift is 20 lbs.”
After submitting her application, Dunn-Edwards hired Carter. Ms. Carter was then assigned to a store. On the first day of her job, she again disclosed her disability to the store manager and requested an accommodation. Dunn Edward agreed to accommodate her restrictions and Ms. Carter began working for Dunn-Edwards. From the outset, Ms. Carter performed well, without any indication that her employment with Dunn-Edwards was at risk. Whenever she needed help lifting anything over 20 pounds, she would ask her colleagues and they would help.
After working for Dunn-Edwards for a few months, Ms. Carter’s supervisor requested that she provide a doctor’s note clearing her to return to work without any medical restrictions. When Ms. Carter was unable to obtain such a note (because she was still disabled), Dunn-Edwards placed her on a medical leave and then terminated her.
After her termination, Ms. Carter filed a claim against Dunn Edwards for wrongful termination, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate a disability and failure to engage in the interactive process. The case was then moved to arbitration before a retired judge.
After years of litigation and 8 days of arbitration hearing, the arbitrator concluded that there was ample evidence to support Ms. Carter’s claims. Specifically, the arbitrator concluded that Ms. Carter had a disability, that Dunn-Edwards had an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for that disability, and Dunn-Edwards terminated Ms. Carter because of her disability. The arbitrator concluded that Dunn-Edwards’ conduct was against California law and caused harm to Ms. Carter. Therefore, the arbitrator ordered Dunn Edwards to pay Ms. Carter $10,000 in economic damages (for her lost wages) and awarded her $70,000 in damages for her emotional distress. In addition, the arbitrator ordered Dunn-Edwards to pay Ms. Carter’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, the amount of which the arbitrator will decide at a later hearing.
Disability Discrimination in California
California law prohibits employers from engaging in disability discrimination. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the Disabled Persons Act protect disabled employees in California.
Employees and contractors who are subject to discrimination may be able to file claims for damages. If you experienced workplace discrimination, then you should contact a California employment law attorney to discuss your legal options.
Yadegar, Minoofar & Soleymani LLP is a Los Angeles employment law firm with extensive experience with workplace discrimination cases. Contact us for a consultation by calling (310) 526-8152 or by using our online case review form.