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Disability definitions do have limits

In California, individuals are often protected by both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The first is a federal law and the second a state law. To sue an employer under FEHA, a person has to qualify as a disabled person. While qualification is sometimes obvious — a court isn’t going to question the disability of someone who is blind, for example — there are instances where the courts held that someone was not actually disabled.

One example of this happening occurred after a women sought treatment for anxiety and stress. She related the stress and anxiety to the fact that she worked for a certain supervisor, whom she believed was causing or exacerbating her issues. The woman sought medical attention and filed for leave from work, which was originally granted.

After several rounds of leave, the woman — using documentation and a request from her doctor — requested a transfer to another supervisor. She also requested additional months of leave. The company reviewed the requests and determined that the doctor had not provided documentation that indicated the requested accommodations would actually help the woman return to her position. The doctor did not supply additional requested information, so the company terminated the woman’s employment.

The woman sued, claiming disability discrimination. The court later ruled that the woman did not qualify for protection under FEHA because it didn’t believe she had a disability. According to the court, anxiety from working under a boss because of his or her standard supervision was not a disability under the law.

In this case, the woman lost her claim. However, there are times an employer claims no disability is present when there is an issue. Working with an employment lawyer can help you understand what your options are and how to prove your case for a lawsuit or claim.

Source: HR Morning, “Court draws the line on what is — and isn’t — a disability,” Christian Schappel, accessed June 03, 2016

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