Court of Appeal: No Disability and No Retaliation

In 2000, the California Legislature amended the Fair Employment and Housing Act to ensure the definition of "disability" is broader than the definition in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Way broader. For example, under state law, the employee's "mitigating measures" (such as glasses to help the sight impaired) are not taken into account when evaluating if a person has a disability. Another major difference is that an impairment need only make life activities "difficult" to be "limiting." Under federal law, the impairment must be "substantially" limiting, which is much tougher to prove.

I don't know of any published opinion holding that someone failed to demonstrate a "disability" under the new state law version of the definition. Until now.
Arteaga was part of a crew on a Brink's armored car. He picked up money from ATMs. Money was missing, repeatedly. Brink's investigated and let Arteaga know. An investigation into theft could create a certain numbness, as well as stress. Predictably, therefore, after the investigation commenced, Arteaga began complaining of pain and numbness in his arms, fingers, shoulders and feet, and that he was experiencing "stress." No one had noticed any issues with Arteaga's performance related to the numbness, nor had he complained about it before, although he said he had been experiencing it for a couple of years.

Holding Arteaga did not have a disability, the court noted that his alleged impairment did not "limit" his ability to work, either compared with his pre-disabled condition or with others who perform the work. The opinion is full of interesting observations about relevant considerations: Arteaga did not disclose any impairments on medical forms; the company took him to a doctor on two occasions who released him back to work immediately; he had not complained of any issues until he was under investigation; pain alone does not automatically constitute a disability; no duty to accommodate when employee did not disclose disability; and others.

Arteaga also claimed retaliation because he filed a workers' compensation claim. The court held that the timing was not enough to raise a triable issue of fact because the company had been investigating Arteaga's performance before he filed the workers' compensation claim and then simply followed through with the termination decision.

Where the employee relies solely on temporal proximity in response to the employer’s evidence of a nonretaliatory reason for termination, he or she does not create a triable issue as to pretext, and summary judgment for the
employer is proper.

The case is Arteaga v. Brink's Incorporated. The opinion is here.