Many employers in California get into trouble for not understanding the extent of their obligations to accommodate disabled employees. This can happen for several reasons. First, they may not understand how broadly California law defines disabilities. Second, they may not appreciate the extent to which California law requires employers to assume costs, inconvenience, and disruption to accommodate disabled employees. Third, they may not realize that the range of possible accommodations is so vast.
This last point is illustrated by an arbitration award that I saw reported yesterday out of Los Angeles. A broadcast operator for DIRECTV was a Gulf War vet with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the accommodations he requested for the PTSD was to not have to watch combat footage. DIRECTV argued that there were no such positions. Plaintiff went on a leave of absence and, when he couldn’t return, he was terminated. The case went to arbitration and the arbitrator awarded plaintiff $353,172 (about half of which was for attorneys’ fees and costs).
My point here is not that employers need to be prepared to relieve their workers of the requirement of watching violent images. I realize that that issue won’t come up in the vast majority of jobs. My point is that employers need to understand that the law requires a great deal of flexibility in trying to find ways to keep disabled employees working.
An entry about war footage following an entry about a war movie. Is a theme emerging?