COVID-19 

 

  • Action by insulator alleging that his former employer, an industrial refrigeration company, discriminated and retaliated against him for his disability and age in violation of the FEHA, did not engage in the interactive process and reasonable accommodation, failed to prevent discrimination, failed to grant him CFRA leave, breached the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and wrongfully termination him. Company alleged that insulator had worked nine months for employer, and was not eligible for CFRA leave. The day insulator was seriously injured in a non-work-related car accident was the same day the Governor issued a stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While employer granted insulator’s reasonable accommodation request for six-weeks’ unpaid leave, employee instead elected to be laid-off (along with other employees) for COVID-19, so that he could benefit from both regular unemployment and supplemental COVID-19 unemployment benefits under the CARES Act. While employee received COBRA health insurance coverage information, he failed to apply for COBRA and the policy offer lapsed. Meanwhile, employee’s hospital bills mounted and he was forced to file for bankruptcy to discharge his debts. Resolved in mediation.

  • Pre-arbitration action by in-house attorney alleging that her former employer, a communications start-up, engaged in FEHA disability discrimination, harassment and retaliation, failed to engage in the interactive process and reasonable accommodation, committed promissory estoppel, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and unfair business practices.  Employer alleged that the company had liberally accommodated attorney with more than three months of leave for her anxiety, childcare and home-schooling needs, as well as surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, attorney was unable to perform the essential functions of her job with or without an accommodation, and an indefinite leave would have caused undue hardship to the company.  Resolved by mediator’s proposal.

 

  • Pre-litigation action by baker alleging that her former employer, a specialty bakery and its managing agent, engaged in perceived disability and medical condition (diabetes) discrimination and harassment, and engaged in retaliation when baker complained.  During the pandemic, when a co-worker’s boyfriend was first exposed to COVID-19, both co-worker and baker were quarantined and underwent COVID-19 testing.  When the results were negative, baker and co-worker returned to work.  Later, baker had a skin rash, and again quarantined, and underwent another COVID-19 test as well as an antibody test.  After receiving negative results on these tests, baker asked to return to work without requesting for any accommodation.  Rather than returning baker to work, employer instead placed her on continuous unpaid leave and replaced her position with a new employee without any apparent disability or medical condition.  Employer alleged baker’s underlying diabetic condition made her a direct threat to herself in the event she were to be exposed to COVID-19 in its store.  Employer also alleged it could not afford to upgrade its air conditioning system, something baker had not requested.  Resolved by mediator’s proposal.