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California Supreme Court Denies Review of Troubling Castro-Ramirez Decision

Published by on January 26, 2017

Employers should carefully consider an employee’s or applicant’s request for accommodation to care for a disabled family member.

We previously reported here that a California Court of Appeal held that employers have a duty under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to provide reasonable accommodations to an applicant or employee who is associated with a disabled person who needs the employee’s assistance. Castro Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., 2 Cal. App. 5th 1028 (2016). In her dissent, Justice Elizabeth Grimes summarized the majority’s opinion by stating that the Court of Appeal went “where no one has gone before, to find a California employer may be liable under FEHA for failing to accommodate a nondisabled employee’s request to modify his work schedule to permit him to care for a disabled family member.” She further added that the Court of Appeal “has indeed boldly gone into a new frontier, fraught with danger for California employers.”

Hoping that the California Supreme Court would share Judge Grimes’ concern about the Court of Appeal’s decision, the employer petitioned the high court for review of the appellate court decision. On November 30, 2016, however, the California Supreme Court denied the petition for review, effectively ending the case. Because review was denied and the appellate opinion has not been depublished, all California trial courts are now bound by the Castro-Ramirez decision unless and until there is a conflicting Court of Appeal published decision.

Welter Insight

Employers should carefully consider an employee’s or applicant’s request for accommodation to care for a disabled family member. Each request should be considered on a case-by-case basis and employers should engage in the interactive process in good faith to determine if the requested accommodation can be permitted.

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