Can Employers Terminate an Employee with a Diagnosed Mental Illness?

California and federal law protect the rights of employees from unlawful termination, which may include termination upon the basis of a mental health problem suffered by the employee. Employees are required to request reasonable accommodation for their illness in order to benefit from all of the legal protections available, however, employers may still terminate an employee after accommodations have been requested under some circumstances. The California Court of Appeals recently addressed an appeal to a rejected discrimination claim that had been pursued by a dentist against her former employer.

According to the facts discussed in the recently published appellate opinion, the defendant hired the plaintiff as a full-time dentist but she was later terminated. Nearly two years after her termination, the plaintiff sued the former employer alleging several causes of action. The complaint detailed that the plaintiff had previously sued another company for wrongful termination and retaliation. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant began a covert harassment campaign to interfere with her lawsuit against the other company. As a result of the stress from the alleged harassment, she began seeing a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with delusional disorder. Her accommodation request due to her disability was ultimately denied, and her employment was terminated. The defendant cited performance and behavioral issues as reasons for the termination, countering the plaintiff’s claim of pretext.

After discovery was complete, the employer asked the court to resolve the case without trial. The plaintiff represented herself without an attorney and opposed the summary disposition, but failed to present admissible evidence. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding no triable issues. The plaintiff’s subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied, and she filed a notice of appeal in March 2023.

On appeal, the plaintiff represented herself without an attorney. She argued that it was inappropriate for the trial court to issue a summary judgment in the defendant’s favor. The court ultimately rejected all of the plaintiff’s general arguments, focusing on the fact that her appellate brief was not sufficient, and her proposed evidence was not admissible. Because the plaintiff failed to meet the procedural burden to dispute the trial court’s ruling, her appeal was denied. This case demonstrates the importance of following procedural rules when making an employment law claim. Because the plaintiff was not able to meet the requirements without an attorney, her arguments were not addressed.

California Employment Lawyers Who Will Stand Behind Your Claims

If you or a loved one has been harassed or discriminated against at work, it can be a difficult task to have your voice heard and fight for your rights. State and federal employment laws can be complicated and appear contradictory, and the procedural requirements for making a claim are not always clear-cut. If you have an issue, the experienced California employment law attorneys with the Nourmand Law Firm can help. Our experienced lawyers understand what needs to be done to pursue a successful claim for compensation. We take cases on a contingency basis, meaning if we don’t collect a judgment, you don’t need to pay our fees. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a California employment law attorney, call 310-553-3600 today.



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