Milan v. City of Holtville, 186 Cal. App. 4th 1028 (2010)

Tanya Milan, who worked as a water treatment operator for the City of Holtville, was injured on the job while moving a large piece of metal. After Milan applied for workers’ compensation benefits, a physician who had been retained on behalf of the city, examined her and concluded she would not be able to return to work at the water treatment plant. Shortly thereafter, the city notified Milan that because she would be unable to return to work, it had decided to offer her rehabilitation benefits, which she accepted before taking an online real estate course. Milan continued to receive a regular paycheck from the city until she was notified 18 months after the injury had occurred that the city was terminating her employment. Milan filed this lawsuit against the city, alleging it had violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act by failing to determine whether it could provide effective accommodations for her disability.

Following a bench trial, the lower court ruled in favor of Milan, holding the city had failed to engage in the interactive process to find a possible accommodation of Milan’s disability. However, the Court of Appeal reversed based on the absence of any evidence that Milan had ever requested an accommodation or that she had expressed to the city any desire to return to her former job. The court held that “where, as here, an employer has not received any communication from an employee over a lengthy period of time, and after the employee has been given notice of the employer’s determination the employee is not fit [to return to work], an employer is not required [under FEHA]… to initiate a discussion of accommodations.” See also Brownfield v. City of Yakima, 2010 WL 2902503 (9th Cir. 2010) (city’s requirement that police officer undergo a fitness-for-duty examination following his exhibiting emotionally volatile behavior was required by business necessity and did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the First Amendment or the Family Medical Leave Act); EEOC v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions, 2010 WL 3366256 (9th Cir. 2010) (UPS may have been obligated to provide deaf employee who had limited proficiency in written English with a sign language interpreter for certain meetings).