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Disabled Employees in California Must Be “Qualified Individuals”

The Supreme Court resolved a conflict in appellate decisions regarding whether employees must prove they are “qualified individuals” under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (the federal statute prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities) specifically includes the requirement that the employee is a “qualified individual,” but the FEHA does not. To be a “Qualified individual” under the ADA, the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations. If the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable, the employer can terminate the employee without violating the law.

Because the FEHA does not include a requirement that the employee be a “qualified individual,” at least one appellate court held that the employee does not have to prove that s/he could perform the essential functions of the job in order to prevail on a disability discrimination case.

The California Supreme Court in Green v. State of California (S 137770) held that the FEHA, like the ADA, requires the employee to prove that s/he is a “qualified individual” who can perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation.

In determining whether an employee can perform the essential functions of the job, employers are wise to consider all possible accommodations, such as transfers or job restructuring

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.

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Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.