Employee Who is “Potentially Disabled” May Proceed to Trial Over His Claims

Employee Who is “Potentially Disabled” May Proceed to Trial Over His Claims

On June 10, 2019, a California court of appeal in Ross v. County of Riverside reversed a lower court’s grant of summary judgement in favor of an employer because it found that questions of fact existed over whether an employee was “physically disabled” and entitled to protection under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Ross was an assistant district attorney who had requested to be moved to a position “with no stress, no quotas, no deadlines [and] no pressure” while he attended out-of-state medical appointments to determine whether he was physically disabled.

The Ross court noted that the FEHA protects employees with physical impairments that are not only actually disabling, but also that are “potentially disabling or are perceived as disabling or potentially disabling.” The evidence Ross had presented showed that the County had viewed Ross’ condition “as potentially disabling enough to transfer Ross from one unit to another unit; request he supply medical documentation of the impairment… and place him on a paid leave of absence pending a fitness for duty examination.” Accordingly, Ross’s claims for disability discrimination, failure to reasonably accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to prevent disability discrimination could proceed to trial.