A registered nurse from a hospital located in Los Angeles filed a disability discrimination claim against her former employer following her termination. Plaintiff took an extended medical leave but then refused to return to work after being released from her treating physician, without any restrictions. Instead, Plaintiff requested additional time off to accompany her family on a family vacation. That request was denied due to business needs. Nevertheless, Plaintiff went on her family vacation and proceeded to play a cat and mouse game with her supervisor regarding her return to work date. At the trial court level, the Judge saw through Plaintiff’s nonsense and granted summary judgment, concluding that Plaintiff did not meet her prima facie burden because she was not disabled at the time of termination, the employer terminated her for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons and there was no evidence of pretext.
On appeal, Plaintiff argued that her prior “history of disability” satisfied her prima facie burden, and that there were disputed issues of fact demonstrating that the hospital terminated Plaintiff based on discriminatory animus. When making these arguments, Plaintiff relied on alleged statements by her former supervisor (i.e., that Plaintiff had already taken too much time off due to her disability), the timing of her termination (which was 10 days after she had been released to return to work), and her prior positive performance reviews. While the Court of Appeal punted on the issue of whether Plaintiff satisfied her prima facie burden based on her “history of disability,” it nevertheless affirmed summary judgment after concluding that the undisputed evidence demonstrates that the employer terminated Plaintiff for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons and there is no evidence of pretext. Dawn Irizarry led the defense in obtaining the summary judgment before the Court of Appeal with the assistance of Carolina Schwalbach and Marianne Koepf.
Los Angeles County Superior Court; California Court of Appeal, Second District Appellate District, Division Two