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AMPAS sued for terminating disabled employee

The term "wrongful termination" encompasses a wide variety of illegal decisions by employers to fire their employees. One of the most egregious examples of wrongful termination is the decision by an employer to discharge an employee who is struggling with or recovering from a serious illness or injury. A recent lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by a former employee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences provides a powerful example of such wrongful conduct.

In 2016, the employee, a manager of human resources for the Academy, was stricken with a large malignant tumor between his lungs and heart. After the tumor was discovered, the manager underwent a staggering course of medical treatment: seven rounds of chemotherapy, three heart attacks, open heart surgery, implantation of a stent and 45 days in quarantine. The employee was allowed to work at home while he was undergoing treatment. The employee then elected to take disability leave.

The employee returned to work in April 2016 and was allowed to work from home three or four times a week. In May, a personnel change gave the employee a new supervisor. The new supervisor initially suggested that the employee take more disability leave but the employee refused. The parties were unable to resolve their disagreement, and the Academy terminated the employee in July. In essence, the complaint alleges that the Academy violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act by failing to make a reasonable accommodation to the man's disability and by wrongfully dismissing him. The Academy has not yet served its answer to the complaint.

Anyone who has been discharged because an illness or injury limited their ability to work may wish to consult a lawyer who practices employment law. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide a helpful analysis of the law and facts that govern the case and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Source: Law 360, "Motion Picture Academy Sued For Disability Bias," Kevin Penton, Jan. 31, 2017

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