The end of the year is fast approaching, which means that it is time for California employers to evaluate their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with new California laws that go into effect in January 2012. While you’re cleaning house, don’t forget to review each job description at your company.
Last month, United Parcel Service (UPS) was ordered to pay more than $96,000 in damages after the company fired an employee because of her disability. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission (Commission) determined that UPS unlawfully terminated the employee who was able to perform the essential functions of her job.
UPS hired the employee in question in 1997 primarily as an Operations Management Specialist. Her essential duties were to handle customer calls and complaints on shipments. Although she occasionally located packages in a warehouse, handling packages was not part of her job. In 2007, the employee had knee surgery and took a leave of absence to recover. She continued to carry out the essential customer service functions of her job. She had some restrictions, such as limited standing, walking, bending, and kneeling, which prevented her from locating and handling packages in the warehouse. UPS perceived her as disabled and applied it’s policy of capping reasonable accommodations of disabled employees at 12 months. Based on the cap, the employee was fired in August 2008.
Where UPS went wrong. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act requires that employees be allowed to work as long as they are able to perform the essential functions of their jobs with or without accommodations. The employee in question was able to continue with her customer service duties despite her physical restrictions. Her disability only affected her ability to handle packages, which was not part of her job. Thus, UPS’s termination of her employment was unlawful.
TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS: When reviewing your employee’s job descriptions, make sure that they accurately reflect the actual duties of the position and identify which of these are “essential” to the job. If you need to terminate a disabled employee, refer to these essential job functions. If the employee could perform these functions with or without a reasonable accommodation, you may not terminate that employee unless it would be an undue burden on your business to accommodate that employee.
If you have questions regarding job descriptions, reasonable accommodations, or employment law in general, feel free to contact us here or call 949.529.0007 to speak to an Orange County employment attorney.