Michaelin Higgins-Williams worked for Sutter Medical Foundation as a clinical assistant. But she found her interactions with her boss and human resources stressful. And this is California, where no one should have to work with stress. That’s why we have yoga.
Because Higgins-Williams was experiencing the dreaded stress, her doctor took her off work and her employer granted her leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. When she exhausted that leave and returned to work, her supervisor continued to be mean. She noted areas of Higgins-Williams’ performance that needed improvement, made plaintiff work hard, and was “curt and abrupt.” Outrageous, right?
It got so bad that, on one occasion, the supervisor yelled. And I’m not talking about loudly telling her to have a nice day. According to the complaint, the supervisor yelled AT Higgins-Williams. Higgins-Williams left work and said she’d only come back if she was given a further leave, specific work hours, and a different supervisor “forever.” Sutter didn’t agree to that and ultimately terminated Higgins-Williams, who sued.
The court granted summary judgment for the employer citing earlier cases saying that not being able to work under a particular supervisor is not a disability under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The court of appeal affirmed. It noted that the outcome could be different if the supervisor was doing something other than “standard oversight of job performance.” But that wasn’t the case here.
Takeaway: Employees in California don’t get to pick their supervisors – at least not yet.