An opinion handed down by the California Court of Appeal last week underscores the importance of engaging in an “interactive process” to determine reasonable accommodations for a disabled employee. In Wysinger v. Automobile Club of Southern California, a 25-year employee of the Automobile Club sued for, among other things, disability discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). The jury determined that the Automobile Club was liable for failing to engage in an interactive process to determine if reasonable accommodations were available for Wysinger’s lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, but not liable for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation.
The Automobile Club appealed, arguing that the jury verdict was inconsistent. The Court of Appeal disagreed, holding that, under California’s disability discrimination law, a violation for failure to engage in an interactive process can exist even when the employer is not liable on a claim that it failed to provide a reasonable accommodation. The court held that “[f]ailure to engage in [the interactive] process is a separate FEHA violation independent from an employer’s failure to provide a reasonable disability accommodation, which is also a FEHA violation.” Unlike California law, no provision in the federal disability discrimination law imposes liability on employers who refuse to engage in the interactive process.
We have attached the Wysinger opinion for your review.
Keesal, Young & Logan Employment Group