Nadaf-Rahrov v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., 166 Cal. App. 4th 952 (2008)

Forough Nadaf-Rahrov worked as a clothes fitter for Neiman Marcus in Dallas before transferring to San Francisco in the mid- 1990s. She suffered from recurrent back and joint pain and was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis. In November 2003, she commenced a requested family medical leave of absence, which was extended at least four times over the following nine months. By the time Neiman Marcus terminated Nadaf-Rahrov’s employment, after several leave extensions, she did not have a release from her doctor to perform her job duties, and she had exhausted her remaining sick and vacation benefits. After her termination, Nadaf-Rahrov sued Neiman Marcus for disability discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Although the trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that there was a triable issue of fact whether Neiman Marcus could have but did not provide her with a reasonable accommodation in the form of a reassignment to a vacant position. Similarly, the Court held the employer may have caused a breakdown in the interactive process by failing to provide information to the employee about available positions that might have assisted her and her physician in preparing a list of work-related medical restrictions. The Court affirmed dismissal of the employee’s claim for retaliation, but reversed dismissal of her claims for national origin and ethic discrimination and ruled that she was entitled to additional discovery responses concerning available positions. Cf. Mangano v. Verity, Inc., 167 Cal. App. 4th 944 (2008) (employer that served plaintiff with a Code of Civ. Proc. § 998 settlement offer before obtaining summary judgment of disability discrimination claims was properly awarded its expert witness fees, but it was not entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees); Anthony v. City of Los Angeles, 166 Cal. App. 4th 1011 (2008) (prevailing plaintiff in FEHA retaliation case was properly awarded expert witness fees).