Employment Update
January 2005

Clarification of Eligibility For Medical Leave

A recent California court of appeal has clarified a murky issue under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), regarding when an employee qualifies to take medical leave. Under the CFRA (like the federal Family and Medical Leave Act), an employee who has a serious medical condition which prevents her from performing the "essential functions" of her job is entitled to medical leave. There was some confusion, however, as to how to determine whether the job's essential functions included the individual conditions under which they were to be performed. In Lonicki v. Sutter Health Central, the court held that the essential functions are limited to the requirements of performing the job, and do not include variable conditions under which the job is performed. Ms. Lonicki worked for Sutter Health sterilizing medical equipment. She also worked part time for another hospital sterilizing medical equipment. Sutter Health changed the hours of her shift, and Lonicki objected. She obtained a medical excuse, asserting that she could return to work in a month. When she was terminated, she sued, claiming that she had been entitled to medical leave under the CFRA, although she continued to work at the other hospital during that same month. Lonicki unsuccessfully argued that the conditions at Sutter Health were too stressful, and prevented her from performing her job there. The court held that she could not claim she was "unable to perform" the essential job functions at Sutter Health if she was in fact performing the same essential functions elsewhere. Essential functions can not be expanded from the nature of the job itself to include variable conditions, such as relations with supervisors or scheduling requirements.

This update is only a summary. The Law Offices of Peter A. Singler can help you understand the full impact this law may have on your business. If you have any question, please contact Bruce Napell at (707) 823-8719 or BJN@singler-law.com.

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