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Your Employee Matters


By July 1, 2013No Comments

Sanchez v. Swissport, Ms. Anna Sanchez was employed by Swissport from August 2007 until July 14, 2009 as a cleaning agent. Around February 27, 2009 she was diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy that would require bed rest. To help, Swissport provided her 19 weeks of leave, consisting of accrued vacation time, in addition to the time allowed by the California Family Rights Act (FMLA equivalent) and the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (which offers four months of leave). Essentially, Sanchez told the company that she would be able to come back to work after delivering her baby on October 19. Instead, the company terminated her on July 14, claiming that it had exhausted all its legal obligations.

The question in the case is whether The Fair Employment and Housing Act (the ADA equivalent) applies even after the plaintiff had exhausted all of her leave and – big surprise – the answer is yes. Essentially, Swissport had to show that keeping her job open for another 12 weeks or so would have been an undue burden. Unfortunately, because the company never entered into an accommodation dialogue with Sanchez, the case was allowed to continue to trial.

The lesson for employers is clear: No matter the state you are in, you must continue the accommodation dialogue. If an extended absence would pose an undue burden, you had better be able to prove this – guessing will only get you in trouble.