Monday, July 23, 2012

$8.5 million Awarded in LA Superior for "Failure to Accommodate" a Disability

$8.5 million has been awarded an Employee who worked at an oil refinery. In 2005, the Employee hurt her knee while working as a Shift Supervisor. Thereafter, the Employer assigned her to a desk job position because of her knee problems.

When another Company acquired the Refinery, the Company changed the Employee's duties, and she was required to go on a medical leave of 22 months. The Employer ultimately terminated her for failure to appear for work in her new job capacity.

The Employee claimed that she should have been allowed to continue in her desk job. The Employer claimed that she had been given adequate opportunity to recover, and that she could not perform the essential functions of the job. Employer also claimed that she was unqualified for the other jobs that she sought within the company.

Some observations:

1) The verdict came out of the Central District for Los Angeles County Superior Court. This venue is known to produce high verdicts.

2) Big does not necessarily mean better or more effective. The defense law firm in the case was Fulbright and Jaworski.

3) The previous Owner/Employer was able to "accommodate" the Employee for a period of time in her desk job probably lead the jury to believe that the new Employer could do the same.

4) The new Employer's changing of the Employee's job duties seems to be a self-serving excuse to find a way to eliminate the Employee's position, that is, to eliminate the previous Employer's "accommodation."

Source: "Daily Journal Verdicts and Settlements" Friday, July 20, 2012, page 5, Michelle Daniel v. Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, Case BC383531. Verdict: June 21, 2012.

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