California disability law allows those who are associated with disabled individuals to receive protection against disability discrimination. In this post, we will use a past case from the California Courts of Appeal to demonstrates this protection. In this case, a man who planned to donate a kidney to his disabled sister won a disability discrimination appeal.
In Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc. a recently hired employee informed his employer, Auto-Chlor, that he intended to donate his kidney to his disabled sister. The employee then attempted to take time off under a new law associated with such cases, known as the Michelle Maykin Memorial Donation Protection Act (DPA). The employee’s manager did not respond to his request to take leave, so the employee complained to management. However, just two days before the law took official effect, Auto-Chlor terminated the employee for allegedly “poor performance.”
The Employee’s Claim
The employee then sued Auto-Chlor for several violations including associational disability discrimination, retaliation for a protected activity, violation of the DPA, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. The trial court dismissed the employee’s claims but the court of appeals reversed the decision, allowing the associational disability discrimination and wrongful termination claims to proceed.
California Court of Appeal’s Decision
The California Court of Appeals decided that the employee had provided enough evidence to show that the employer had discriminated against him. The discrimination was determined to be based on his relationship to his disabled sister and the fact that the employee would soon become disabled himself after the kidney donation surgery was complete. These facts could have supported a claim for wrongful termination and associational discrimination.
What Is Associational Discrimination?
Associational discrimination claims are a powerful tool to fight discrimination in the workplace. Such claims cover situations in which the employer takes adverse action (such as termination or harassment) against the employee for a disability that an employee’s close family member or spouse has. It also covers claims as the one in Rope discussed above, where the employer fears incurring expenses due to the employee’s association with a disabled person. It is possible that an employer may fear that due to the relationship with the disabled family member, the employee will have to take time off to care for them, or possibly raise the costs of the employer-sponsored medical benefits plan.
Keep in mind that the employer here seemed to be trying to illegally discriminate against the employee before the new law that would have protected him took effect. Today, this would be much more difficult as the DPA is now in full effect and protects employees by allowing them to take 30 days off in order to donate organs.
If you have been the victim of discrimination contact an experienced attorney right away. Call attorney Michelle Baker at (858) 452-0093 or submit your information online for a Free Consultation.