Green v. State of Cal., 2007 WL 2388920 (Cal. S. Ct. Aug. 23, 2007)

Dwight Green worked as a stationary engineer for the Department of Corrections at the California Institute for Men in Chino. Seven years after contracting hepatitis C (presumably from the sewer pipes at the Institute), Green began taking the drug interferon, which caused him to feel fatigued, to have trouble sleeping and to suffer headaches and body aches. Green asserted that his ongoing medical condition prevented him from being punctual and occasionally required that he be put on “light duty.” Eventually, Green was informed that unless he could be cleared for full duty by his doctor, he could not return to his position as a stationary engineer. Following a trial on his disability discrimination claim, the jury awarded Green $2.6 million in compensatory damages. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, holding that the FEHA does not require plaintiff to prove that he is a qualified individual — rather, it is the employer’s burden to prove that the employee is incapable of performing the essential duties of the position with reasonable accommodation. In a 4-to-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal and held, consistent with the federal ADA, that it is the employee’s burden to prove that he or she can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.