A Legitimate Company Policy Mistakenly Applied Results in Disability Discrimination Liability

A Legitimate Company Policy Mistakenly Applied Results in Disability Discrimination Liability

On November 12, 2019, a court of appeal in Glynn v. Superior Court reversed a trial court’s order granting an employer summary adjudication of an employee’s disability discrimination and retaliation claims. A temporary employee in the employer’s benefits department had fired the plaintiff because she mistakenly believed that he had transitioned from short term to long term disability, and that he was totally disabled and unable to work. The plaintiff sent the employer four emails over the next nine months complaining that he had not applied for long term disability benefits and that he was not being accommodated. Only after the plaintiff filed a lawsuit did the employer offer to reinstate him with full back pay.

The Glynn court held that even though the employer’s policy was legal as written, its application to the plaintiff discriminated against him because of his disability. The benefits employee’s mistaken belief that the plaintiff was unable to perform his job safely, even if reasonable and made in good faith, was of no consequence. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act does not require an employee with an actual or perceived disability prove that an employer’s adverse employment action was motivated by animosity or ill will.