Lonicki v. Sutter Health Central, 43 Cal. 4th 201 (2008)

Antonina Lonicki, a certified technician of sterile processing, was fired when she failed to return to her job at Sutter, following a leave of absence. During the leave, Lonicki continued to perform the same job duties at Kaiser in the same geographic area. In her lawsuit, Lonicki alleged Sutter had violated the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) by denying her request for a medical leave, which was based upon her belief that her shift at Sutter was “too stressful.” The trial court granted summary judgment to Sutter on the ground that Lonicki could not have been suffering from a “serious health condition” because throughout the relevant time period she was successfully performing the functions of an identical job at Kaiser. In a 4-to-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal’s judgment affirming summary judgment for Sutter on the ground that the part-time job at Kaiser was only evidence of Lonicki’s ability to do similar work for Sutter, but it was not conclusive. The Supreme Court also held that Sutter’s failure to invoke the CFRA’s dispute-resolution mechanism of having a health care provider who has been jointly chosen by the parties determine the employee’s entitlement to medical leave did not bar Sutter from later claiming Lonicki did not suffer from a serious health condition.