Employer may be liable for “associational” disability

In Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., the California Court of Appeals upheld a finding that it is illegal to terminate someone based on associational discrimination, such as when the individual must care for an immediate family member with a disability.

Luis Castro-Ramirez had allegedly arranged a work schedule with his supervisors for several years that allowed him to be home at night to administer his disabled son’s dialysis treatments. When a new supervisor took over and altered Castro-Ramirez’s schedule, the supervisor fired him when Ramirez failed to show up to a shift that interfered with his son’s dialysis.

Castro-Ramirez, sued his former employer, Dependable Highway Express, for alleged disability discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. The Court of Appeal held that under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it is unlawful for employers to terminate workers due to discriminatory reasons, such as disability. It is unlawful to fire a person based on physical disabilities or other characteristics, including the association with a person who has or is perceived to have any of those characteristics.

What makes this case unique is that Castro-Ramirez did not have a disability. The implications for California employment law are that California employers may be liable for failing to accommodate an employee’s requests to modify work conditions in order to care for a disabled family member.

The California Court of Appeal denied Dependable Highway Express’ petition for review of the case on November 30, 2016, effectively closing the case. Now, California employers must review their practices and policies to remain in accordance with the law.

If you believe that your employer has wrongfully terminated you because of your association with a disabled person, you should contact an experienced employment attorney at Strong Advocates. We can assist you in determining your rights and legal options. We are committed to helping you get the justice you deserve.