Friday, July 19, 2013

Sacramento County Breaks Promise to Disabled Deputy Sheriff

Eric Henrikson is the lone survivor of a fatal sheriff's helicopter crash that killed two deputies eight years ago. According to former Sacramento Sheriff Lou Blanas, the day of the crash "was one of the worst days in my life and one of the worst days in the history of the Sheriff's Department."  At the time, the County promised to cover Henrikson for life.

Now, Sacramento County has cut off his disability and medical payments, according to Sacramento's ABC news affiliate, News 10.  According to Dep. Henrikson's attorney, David P. Mastagni, the County cut him off with no notice and "what the County is doing to this former deputy is not reflective of what the citizens of Sacramento County want for the deputy."

The News 10 reporters stated the County sued the helicopter manufacturer, Turbomeca, settling for $1.5 million and recently learned Henrikson allegedly settled his claims against Turbomeca for $26 million, noting "maybe he just had a better lawyer."  The reporters condemned the County for cutting off Dep. Henrikson, noting "a deal is a deal and its right here in black and white."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Employers Can be Sued for Invading Employees' Privacy

In Ignat v. Yum Brands, Inc. (March 18, 2013) Case No. G046343, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled employees can sue when their employers publicly disclose private facts about them, even if just verbally.  The case started when Melissa Ignat, a Yum Brands employee, returned to work after an absence to learn that her employer had revealed to her co-workers that she suffered from bipolar disorder.  She filed a lawsuit, alleging public disclosure of private facts.

The case is especially significant because the Court of Appeal abolished the requirement that disclosure happened in a document.  The Court decided there was no good reason for the "document requirement" and recognized that verbal disclosures can be just as harmful and written ones.  Since the requirement served no legitimate purpose, the Court allowed Ms. Ignat to sue her employer for verbally disclosing her condition to her co-workers.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Court of Appeal Increases Protections for Pregnant Workers

In Sanchez v. Swissport, Inc. (February 21, 2013) 2013 WL 635266, the Court of Appeal ruled employees fired for not returning to work after a pregnancy can still sue for pregnancy discrimination even though the employee exhausted all permissible leave available under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL).

In this case of first impression, the court explained that an employee who exhausts all of her statutory pregnancy disability leave may still state a claim for employment discrimination under FEHA because the remedies of the PDLL are meant to “augment, rather than supplant, those set forth elsewhere in the FEHA.” The statutory leave of four months available under the PDLL is “in addition to” the remedies set forth in FEHA governing pregnancy, childbirth, and pregnancy-related medical conditions. Compliance with the PDLL, thus, does not relieve an employer of its obligations under FEHA, including the obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation (which may in some cases exceed four months) to an employee disabled by pregnancy, so long as the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

In this case, the employee said Swissport terminated her because she was pregnant, was unable to work during her high-risk pregnancy, refused to grant her a reasonable accommodation in the form of allowing her to remain on leave until she gave birth, and terminated her because she sought such reasonable accommodations for her disability. The court concluded that these allegations were sufficient to state claims for sex and disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of FEHA.