September 26, 2019 Category: Discrimination
If you need to be tested for a serious illness, you might worry about taking time off from work. Fearing job or wage loss should not stop you from seeking the care you need. California courts recently issued a decision that protects California workers in this situation.
If you have a great work environment, you might not think twice about asking for sick leave to go to the doctor. Even if you do not have sick leave available, if you and your employer understand your rights, it may not be a problem.
However, many California workers find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being afraid to ask for time off for medical testing. If that sounds like you, then you need to understand how California law protects your employment.
Recent Landmark Decision
In a recent California case, Ross v. Court of Riverside, the court decided that taking time off from work to be tested for a serious medical condition should be treated like a disability when it comes to workers’ rights.
This is true regardless of whether they are actually diagnosed with a disabling medical disorder. These rights are protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and California Labor Code section 1102.5.
This is an important clarification of the law for California workers. It means that if you need to get tested for a serious medical condition, you have certain rights under California law.
Testing Before Diagnosis
In this court case, the employee, Christopher Ross, told his employer that he needed to be tested for a condition that might be disabling. He needed to travel out of state for several medical tests and would be out of work from time to time for a few months.
At first, Ross asked to be transferred to another unit which allowed more flexibility, but his employer denied the request. Ross then asked that no new cases be added to his workload. At first, this request was also denied, but later approved when Ross took the situation higher into management.
It is common for employees to request these types of accommodations for a sickness or disability. The right to do so is protected under both federal and California state law.
Discrimination and Retaliation
Ross experienced a series of discriminatory and retaliatory acts in the workplace. Ross sent his employer a letter stating that he believed he had been constructively terminated from his job. He requested that he be paid out any accrued sick and/or paid time off.
Then, Ross sued his employer for violation of California Labor Code section 1102.5 and violation of the protections offered under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability.
He also claimed that his employer failed to:
- provide reasonable accommodations;
- come to a mutually beneficial agreement; and
- prevent workplace discrimination based upon disability status.
Protections under California Law
The Fair Employment and Housing Act defines a physical disability as any physical impairment which may affect the neurological or immunological systems and limits one or more major life activities by either restricting the activity altogether or making it difficult.
In Ross’s case, working was the major life event that his medical testing was interfering in. If you are repeatedly absent from work, or absent for a long time, for medical reasons, then your condition is limiting a major life activity.
Physical disabilities can be temporary or short term. They can also include physical limitations that are not currently disabling, but could become disabling in the future. In this case, this includes the possibility that Ross may or may not actually be diagnosed with a neurological and/or autoimmune disorder. In Ross’s case, it doesn’t matter if he is actually diagnosed with a medical condition. California law protects potentially disabling ailments as well.
Even though Ross lost his original case, he won on appeal. The court’s decision created landmark case law for the future of California employment law. The court found that Ross’s employer violated his rights as an employee.
Know and Protect Your Rights
Do not let your employer bully you into not seeking the medical treatment you need or feel harassed at work for doing so. You have a right to seek medical testing for a serious medical condition and this right is protected by federal and California law.
If you believe your employer violated your rights denied you FMLA leave for medical testing, consult with an experienced and knowledgeable employment attorney right away.