CA Appellate Court Rules Firing Worker with Disabled Relative is Discrimination

Trucker Luis Castro-Ramirez was hired by Dependable Highway Express, Inc. (DHE) in 2010 and made it clear he needed to help his son with dialysis treatments. In order to take care of his debilitated son, he needed early shifts, which the company granted. When a new supervisor arrived in 2013, the company tried to force Castro-Ramirez into night shifts, despite knowing about the reasoning behind his need to work earlier hours. He was terminated when refusing to change schedules.

After being fired, Castro-Ramirez knew he had been unjustly mistreated by Dependable Highway Express. He sued the company for wrongful termination, retaliation, and disability discrimination, despite the fact that he was not technically the person with a disability. Initially, the Los Angeles County Superior Court protected DHE by citing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ruling in its favor. Within the ADA, there is language that specifically says disability accommodations need not apply to the “associates” of the disabled.

Taking the Matter to an Even Higher Court

Understandably seeing himself as more than an associate to his son, Castro-Ramirez and his legal counsel pressed on, filing an appeal to higher courts. In review of the case, Justice Madeleine Flier determined that there was no legal mandate that prevented state-level laws from granting more protections or being “more powerful” than federal laws. In extension, she found that California could set employment accommodation requirements that go above and beyond what ADA has established. Furthermore, she noted that no previous case in California had made such a ruling yet.

The lower court’s judgement order was reversed, establishing that employers in California may need to extend reasonable accommodations for an employee in regards to the needs of disabled relatives. If this is not done, it can be seen as an employment law violation and potentially discrimination, especially when the employee is negatively impacted by future decisions of the company. The case of Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., which concluded in 2016, has set a landmark for employment law expectations throughout California yet may eventually become influential around the country.

After the successful win in the higher courts, Castro-Ramirez was paid $1.1 million in a non-confidential settlement.

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