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New Decision Reminds Employers that Workers Have a Panoply of Leave Rights

February 22, 2013 by

A recent decision makes clear that employers always have the obligation to reasonably accommodate workers who are disabled and unable to perform some or all of their duties. Ana Sanchez was fired when she was unable to return to work after taking her full 16 weeks of leave under the California Pregnancy Disability Act (PDA). A trial court dismissed Sanchez’ wrongful termination lawsuit because the Employer had provided all of the leave required under the PDA. The California Court of Appeal overturned this decision however, noting that compliance with the PDA was not the Employer’s sole obligation under the law.

The Employer was also obligated to reasonably accommodate a disabled worker, including someone disabled by pregnancy, and not to retaliate or discriminate based on sex or pregnancy. The same analysis applies to employees who have exhausted all of their FMLA or other leave rights – the employee will have the right to additional leave or some modification in her work, if she can establish that the request would not be an “undue burden” for the Employer. (See, Sanchez v. Swissport, Inc.)

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