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Advice to San Diego Employers about Disability Discrimination

Image of old monitorYou’re a San Diego area employer. You might have two employees – or a hundred – but in California, it doesn’t matter! You pride yourself in running a lean and mean company. You leverage your assets and mind your cash flow. You have this old monitor. It’s been hard to read for a while, but then Amazon has a sale. You order a new monitor. You stick the old monitor in an unused cubicle.

Shortly thereafter, you hire a new employee and stick the new employee in the cubical with that old monitor. The employee starts complaining about headaches because of the old monitor. The new employee asks for a new monitor. You tell the employee if the employee gets a new monitor then all the other employees are going to want new monitors and there’s no room in the budget for that.

What you might not be emotionally –and LEGALLY– sensitive to, is that your employee starts experiencing migraine headaches. The migraines are caused by the monitor. Soon, the employee is coming in late. Soon after that, the employee starts missing work because of the headaches. You want a reliable employee. So, you fire the employee.

You might think that you were doing what was right for your business. But, in actuality, what you did is probably illegal. Employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of their disability. Disability includes anything that interferes with a major life activity. Migraine headaches are disabilities. You fired an employee because the employee was missing work because of migraines. Of course, even if you hadn’t done that, you still did something illegal.

Really? Sorry. Yes, you did…

California Employers Should Have Strategy Sessions with a Business Lawyer

Employers MUST engage employees with disabilities in a “timely, good faith, interactive process” in order to determine what sorts of “reasonable accommodations” could be provided in order to help the employee perform the “essential functions” of their job. That doesn’t mean the employee gets whatever they want. It means that the employer must work with the employee to provide a ‘reasonable accommodation’ to the employee, provided it doesn’t create a “undue hardship”. While there might not be budget to buy every employee a new monitor, it’s unlikely that buying one employee a new monitor will be an undue hardship.

Unfortunately, there are no practical classes taught in California universities that teach business owners and managers the limitless PITFALLS facing everyday business owners in California. If you are not aware let me educate you. The state of California is not a business-friendly state. Not all California businesses find it practical to flee to Texas. Besides, its hot and humid there, and difficult as it is, California is where we call home! Therefore, as business owners, we need to learn to watch for and defend ourselves from all the stupid, costly, legal traps awaiting all California businesses. THis is especially true in Californal labor laws!

Assuming that employee sues you for wrongful termination, you can expect to pay your lawyer, the employee for all the wages they lost as a result of their termination, money to compensate them for their emotional distress, potentially punitive damages, and their attorneys’ fees and costs. You can see how that can add up quickly and outweighs the cost of a monitor.

It also outweighs the affordability of a business strategy session with a McCarthy business and employer-side employment law attorney who will bring to your awareness the many potential pitfalls of operating a business in California.

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