Employers nationwide got a surge from a California jury decision that refused to award a former disabled FedEx driver any damages after he was fired, even though he had suffered a work-related injury.
Robert Gardner injured his neck and shoulder while working as a driver for FedEx. The company’s policy allowed him 90 days of leave, during which his job was protected. FedEx allowed Gardner a two-week extension to allow him to see his doctor for a follow-up visit.
Gardner’s doctor gave him a return to work slip, but it contained lifting and driving restrictions. The doctor did not provide a date on which Gardner would be ready for full duty, and Gardner did not return to work.
Pursuant to its policy, FedEx placed Gardner on “displaced” work status. He was given a copy of job vacancies for 90 days but failed to obtain a new full-time position. He even rejected some part-time work. FedEx terminated him at the end of the 90-day period.
Gardner sued, alleging that FedEx should have offered him additional job-protected leave because he was disabled.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to offer a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees if doing so does not impose an undue burden on them. A reasonable accommodation is a change to a job that allows an employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, specifically provides that one common accommodation is the provision of leave.
In Gardner’s case, however, the jury found that FedEx was not required to provide Gardner with additional leave before it terminated him. The jury also found that although Gardner was disabled, he did not suffer an adverse employment action.
The message employees should take from this case is that taking a disability case to a jury can be risky. If you’re disabled, it’s more important than ever to work closely with your doctor and employer if you feel that you need a reasonable accommodation to do your job. It’s also wise to consult with experienced wrongful termination lawyer in San Francisco to protect your rights. Contact us today.
Sacramento, CA 95821