Under Rope v. Auto-Chlor System of Washington, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 635, an employee who requested an accommodation did not engage in a protected activity for purposes of a Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) retaliation claim. Workers’ rights advocates throughout the State celebrated when Governor Jerry Brown overturned the incorrect result in Rope and signed Assembly Bill (“AB”) 987 into law this year.
Under AB 987, employees no longer need to fear retaliation from their employers if they request a reasonable accommodation. It amends the Government Code by prohibiting an employer from retaliating against an employee who requests an reasonable accommodation based on his or her disability or religious beliefs, regardless of whether it was granted or not. The Legislature intended to (1) clarify that a request for a reasonable accommodation on the basis of religion or a disability is protected activity; and (2) protect employees against retaliation when an employee makes such a request.
AB 987 was a direct response to the Rope decision. In Rope, Plaintiff Scott Rope asked his employer for time off to donate his kidney to his disabled sister. The employer initially ignored Mr. Rope’s request for leave, but eventually approved unpaid leave for an unspecified amount of time. Two months before he was scheduled to go out on leave, Mr. Rope’s employer terminated him for “poor performance.” Notably, prior to his termination, Mr. Rope had received only positive performance reviews and posed no disciplinary problems.
Mr. Rope filed suit against his employer alleging FEHA Retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation and well as other claims. The employer filed a general demurrer. The trial court sustained the demurrer and Plaintiff appealed.
Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision to dismiss Mr. Rope’s FEHA Retaliation claim. In order to sustain a FEHA Retaliation claim, Plaintiff Rope had to demonstrate that (1) he engaged in a protected activity; (2) he was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (3) there was a causal link between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. The Court found that Plaintiff Rope’s request for leave as an accommodation did not qualify as a protected activity under the FEHA.
Now AB 987 allows workers to ask their employers for a reasonable accommodation without fearing retaliation. If you feel that your employer retaliated against you for requesting an accommodation due to religion or a disability, please feel free to call Hunter Pyle Law for a free consultation at (510)-663-9240 or email@example.com.