- Written by Carl Larson
The California Supreme Court recently issued a favorable ruling for employers who catch an employee working elsewhere while out on protected leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). In Richey v. Autonation, Inc., Richey received his employer’s employment manual that prohibited outside employment while on medical leave. Shortly before taking CFRA leave, the employee had opened a seafood restaurant.
While he was on leave, his employer discovered that he was working at that restaurant, sweeping, answering phones and hanging signs. In response, the employer sent him a letter reiterating its workplace policy prohibiting such outside employment. When Richey ignored these letters and warnings, his employer terminated him. Richey sued for multiple claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the CFRA.
The employer successfully compelled Richey’s case to arbitration, where the arbitrator’s award was for the employer. The arbitrator ruled the employer could terminate him and refuse to reinstate him if it had an “honest belief” that he was abusing medical leave or not being truthful about his outside employment. The arbitrator also found that Richey had violated the workplace policy against outside employment while on leave.
- Written by Greg Blueford
California passed AB 987 on July 16, 2015 prohibiting an employer from retaliating or otherwise discriminating against a person for requesting a reasonable accommodation of his or her disability or religious beliefs, regardless of whether the accommodation request was granted.
Existing law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation of a person’s disability and religious belief. It also prohibits discrimination against any person because the person has opposed the employer’s unlawful practices or has filed a complaint of discrimination. However, it was unclear whether the making of a request for accommodation was a protected activity. In October 2013, the Second District Court of Appeal held that making a request for a reasonable accommodation is not protected activity under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). Due to this ruling, firing an employee based on a request for reasonable accommodation did not give rise to a retaliation claim. As a result, courts have dismissed cases where employees were fired or discriminated against as retaliation for making a request for reasonable accommodation for disability or religion.