Glynn v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Updated: Aug 20
In Glynn v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County, 2019 WL 5955999 (November 13, 2019), the California Court of Appeal held that even an employer's good faith mistakes may constitute evidence of disability discrimination under California law.
John Glynn worked as a sales representative for Allergan, Inc. and Allergan USA, Inc. ("Allergan"). His primary duties included driving to doctors' offices to promote Allergan's pharmaceutical products.
In January 2016, Allergan approved Glynn's request for a medical leave of absence due to a serious eye condition (myopic macular degeneration). Glynn's doctor provided a medical certification designating Glynn's work status as "no work" because Glynn "can't safely drive."
Allergan's reasonable accommodation policy lists "reassignment to a vacant position" as a potential accommodation. As a result, while on medical leave, Glynn repeatedly asked for assistance in obtaining a job (that does not require driving) within Allergan and applied for several open positions. However, Allergan never reassigned Glynn to a new position.
On July 20, 2016, Anne Marie Perosino (a temporary Allergan benefits department employee) sent a letter to Glynn, informing him that his employment was being terminated, effective July 20, 2016: “We received notification. . . of your approval for Long Term Disability, effective July 20, 2016. According to the Allergan Family and Medical Leave (AFML) policy, you will no longer be eligible to remain on Inactive Status and your employment has ended on 07/20/16, due to your inability to return to work by a certain date with or without some reasonable workplace accommodation.”
Perosino's letter was based on an incorrect interpretation of Allergan's AFML policy, however. In actuality, Allergan's policy required that an employee be terminated, once the employee has been approved for Long Term Disability ("LTD") benefits. But Perosino mistakenly believed that Allergan's policy required that an employee be terminated, once the date that the employee becomes eligible for LTD benefits has passed. At no point did Glynn apply for LTD benefits; and neither party disputed that Glynn could have returned to work with reasonable accommodation.
The day after his termination, Glynn sent a letter to Allergan's Human Resources Department, protesting the decision to terminate him and stating that he never applied for LTD benefits and that he could work in any position that did not require driving.
Allergan did not reinstate Glynn. He subsequently sued Allergan, alleging, among other things, disability discrimination.
After Glynn filed his lawsuit, Karen Ling (Allergan's Chief Human Resources Officer) sent a letter to Glynn, stating that “the human resources personnel involved ... sincerely believed the actions taken were appropriate ... [but that the reasonable accommodation] process could and should have been handled better.” Ling also conceded that “[his] employment should not have been ended.” Ling then offered to reinstate Glynn with full back pay and to continue his pay and benefits while he identified a job to which he wanted to be assigned and for which he was qualified.
Glynn rejected Allergan's reinstatement offer because, among other things, Ling did not identify any specific position that was being offered to him. Glynn also believed that Allergan would continue to mistreat him and fail to place him in a position at Allergan.
The California Court of Appeal held in Glynn's favor with regard to his disability discrimination claim against Allergan. The Court of Appeal found that Allergan incorrectly categorized Glynn as being totally disabled and unable to perform any job at Allergan with or without reasonable accommodation. For instance, as noted above, based on an incorrect interpretation of Allergan's AFML policy, Perosino sent a termination letter to Glynn, stating, "your employment has ended on 07/20/16, due to your inability to return to work by a certain date with or without some reasonable workplace accommodation."
The Court of Appeal stated that, even assuming Perosino’s mistakes were reasonable and made in good faith, the good faith nature of her mistakes does not preclude liability for disability discrimination. Read the full Court of Appeal decision here.
Click here to read about discrimination on the basis of a "perceived" disability; click here to read about high blood pressure and disability discrimination; click here to read about carpal tunnel syndrome and disability discrimination; and click here to read "Arteaga v. Brink's Inc.: What Is a 'Disability' Under California Law?"
If you have believe that you have been subjected to disability discrimination at work, call ((916) 612-0326) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Finley Employment Law today. We serve clients throughout California, including Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Walnut Creek, Concord, and San Ramon.
The information in this blog post is for general informational and advertising purposes only and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Instead, you should speak with a California employment attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.