HR Administration

Legal Briefing: Court Rules on Termination of Employee Who Requested Job-Protected Leave


Dec. 12, 2013

Scott Rope worked as a branch manager for the commercial dishwashing company Auto-Chlor System in California.

When hired in September 2010, he told Auto-Chlor that he was scheduled to donate a kidney to his disabled sister and asked about taking medical leave for that purpose. In response to Rope’s questions about taking leave, Auto-Chlor told Rope that he could take an unspecified amount of unpaid leave.

Rope was fired for alleged poor performance despite receiving satisfactory performance reviews, and two days before California’s Donor Protection Act, which provides 30 days’ paid leave to organ donors, took effect on Jan. 1, 2011. He sued for several legal claims, including his claim that Auto-Chlor fired him before the Donor Protection Act became effective in order to avoid providing him paid leave. The lower courts said Rope had no claim under it because California law could not be applied retroactively.

The appeals court disagreed, deciding that Rope pleaded sufficient facts to state a claim of “associational”-based discrimination, which is applied to situations where employees who have family members with a disability that is costly to the employer under its health insurance. Rope v. Auto-Chlor Sys. of Wash. Inc., Cal. Ct. App., No. B242003 (Oct. 16, 2013).

Impact: Employers should be current with changes to applicable labor and employment laws with regard to employee leave requests.

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.


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