Hernandez v. Rancho Santiago Cmty. Coll. Dist., 2018 WL 2057468 (Cal. Ct. App. 2018)

Marisa Hernandez worked on and off as an assistant for the District for a number of years without any complaints about her performance. Eight months into her 12-month probationary period (after which point she would become a “permanent employee”), Hernandez took a temporary disability leave of absence to have surgery to replace a knuckle on a finger that she injured while working for the district prior to her most recent hiring. Because her performance had not been reviewed, the District terminated her employment while she was on the leave to prevent her from becoming “permanent.” Hernandez sued the District for failure to reasonably accommodate her disability and for failure to engage in the interactive process. Following a court trial, the judge found in Hernandez’s favor and awarded her $723,746 in damages. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, holding that “when a probationary employee suffers a temporary total disability requiring absence from work for an extended period of time, that period may be deducted from the employee’s probationary period.” The Court further held there was evidence that the District did not conduct the interactive process in good faith.