UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland recently agreed to pay $300,000 to a former employee who claimed she was wrongfully fired three years ago after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The woman was hired in March 2009 at the endocrinology department of the hospital.

In 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The hospital gave her a two month leave in order to have a double mastectomy. However, she needed more time off to recover from the surgery. She met with the hospital in July 2012 to discuss an extension in her leave, but her managers said she looked fragile and would not return to the job. The woman had a doctor’s note that said she could return to work in September, but according to the hospital, her request went over the hospital’s six-month leave policy.

The woman went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and filed a complaint that she had been terminated because of her disability, which is illegal. According to the EEOC, if the hospital had given her an extended leave, that would have complied with the law. The parties attempted to resolve the issues prior to trial, but could not reach an agreement. The EEOC then filed a lawsuit against the hospital in district court.

In addition to paying the woman $300,000 in damages, the hospital also must revise its policy on its employee website on accommodating its workers with disabilities. The hospital also must give employees anti-discrimination training, as well as making periodic reports to the EEOC. The hospital must post a notice of the decree for the next three years.

Although this case reached a happy resolution for the woman, it’s unfortunate that the case had to be resolved through the courts rather than the hospital doing the right thing at the outset. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or potential employees with disabilities in all aspects of employment.

Under the ADA, employers are required to provide employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations.  What constitutes a “reasonable accommodation” is very fact dependent. What is reasonable to one smaller employer with a couple of employees may be different than what is considered reasonable to a large employee with thousands of employees.

Further, in order for the ADA to apply, a person must be considered “disabled” as defined under the law. To be disabled, the condition does not have to be permanent, and it can be a mental or a physical condition. In order to show that a person is disabled, he or she must show that he or she has a mental or physical condition that substantially limits a major life activity, or that he or she has a history of disability, or that he or she had a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor.

In addition to the federal ADA, California also has a law called the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which also prohibits discrimination in employment against people with disabilities. A person who has been discriminated against on the basis of disability may choose to file complaints in state or federal court, or both, depending on the circumstances.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers must not discriminate against disabled employees, and if they do, they must be held legally liable. If you have been discriminated against at work because of your disability, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland disability discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. Micha Star Liberty works with clients throughout the San Francisco Bay area, including Oakland, Hayward, Fairfield, Tracy, San Jose, Berkeley, and the surrounding areas. Call today to learn more about your options.

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