Zamora v. Security Indus. Specialists, Inc., 71 Cal. App. 5th 1 (2021)

David Zamora sued his former employer, Security Industry Specialists, Inc. (“SIS”), for disability discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation. Eight days after he was hired, Zamora tripped over a curb at work and twisted his left knee. Zamora was later laid off as part of a wider reduction in force while he was temporarily disabled and was on a workers’ compensation leave of absence related to the accident. The trial court granted SIS’s summary judgment motion, but the Court of Appeal reversed in part, holding that although the retaliation claim was properly dismissed, the discrimination and wrongful termination claims should not have been. The Court reasoned that in the absence of direct evidence of discrimination by SIS, the McDonnell Douglas shifting burden analysis applied, and that in this case Zamora established that SIS failed to perform its “affirmative duty” to engage in the interactive process with him by not advising him of other suitable job opportunities. Had it done so, Zamora may have found another position doing modified work that would have resulted in his avoiding the lay-off. The Court also found that SIS’s asserted legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for termination were refuted by Zamora’s evidence of pretext. Finally, the Court affirmed dismissal of the retaliation claim on the ground that Zamora did not engage in any protected activity by requesting time off for his knee injury.