In 1998, Plaintiff began working as a water treatment operator for the City of Holtville. By September 2002, Plaintiff has been promoted to a Grade III operator. On September 10, 2002, while Plaintiff was moving a large L-shaped piece of metal from one room to another, the metal hit a wall and severely injured the Plaintiff’s neck. Plaintiff suffered two herniated discs that required immediate surgery. Plaintiff applied for workers’ compensation benefits and was examined by a physician on behalf of the Defendant who concluded, unbeknownst to the Plaintiff, that she would not be able to return to work at the water treatment plant. In March 2004, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant City terminating her employment. The letter stated that based on the physician’s evaluation, Plaintiff could not return to her customary position because there was no job within the City which she could reasonably perform. Plaintiff sued alleging that Defendant had violated FEHA by failing provide effective accommodations for her disability. At trial, Defendant contended it had met its obligations under the FEHA because Plaintiff had never sought an accommodation for her disability and, in any event, no accommodation was possible because she could not perform the essential functions of her job. The trial court determined that Defendant had failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability. Defendant appealed.
Reversed. Section 12940(n) requires that an employer, “engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee…to determine effective reasonable accommodations, if any, in response to a request for reasonable accommodation by an employee…” By its terms, section 12940(n) requires that the employee initiate the process. The Plaintiff did not meet her obligation under the statute and no obligation to engage with her with respect to possible accommodation arose.