A scientific glassblower has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Caltech alleging that he was fired in 2018 in retaliation for complaining about not being provided proper work accommodations for his medical condition. According to a report on Pasadena Now, the former employee's lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation and failure to accommodate. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
The plaintiff, according to the lawsuit, is only one of about 40 university glassblowers in the nation. Prior to coming to Caltech, he was a scientific glassblower for the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. He creates glass apparatus and other vessels for researchers in chemistry, engineering, physics and other scientific fields. The lawsuit also states the plaintiffs planned to spend the rest of his career at Georgia Tech, but was contacted by Caltech in 2016 about a job.
Failure to Accommodate Disability
During his interview with Caltech, he let them know he had a history of spinal and head injuries and that he had received accommodations at Georgia Tech that included modified glass shop equipment and a flexible schedule. He was promised his disability would be accommodated by Caltech and was assured a $50,000 budget for renovations. But, once he got to Caltech, the arrangements were not made.
So, he began to contact management about the modified equipment he needed to do his job. The plaintiff also said he was mocked by a manager for using resistance bands and weights to stretch and deal with the pain he was experiencing because of the lack of modified equipment. His request for a student assistant was also denied. He began psychiatric treatment because of emotional problems stemming from these adverse workplace conditions, the lawsuit stated.
Two months later, he reported alleged safety hazards including leaking gas lines and asbestos in the glass shop back room. But his concerns were not properly addressed. He went on medical leave in April and May of 2018. He was fired on May 30 and was told his health insurance was good for another month, but he was later informed that it expired on the day he was fired.
When is an Employer Required to Give an Accommodation?
An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation if an individual with a disability has asked for one. An employee could make the request that he or she needs a modification at work because of a disability or medical condition. The request does not have to necessarily be in writing although employers are allowed to ask for something in writing in order to document the request. A family member, friend, doctor, rehab counselor, labor union or other representative may also request the reasonable accommodation on behalf of the employee.
Once you have requested a reasonable accommodation, it is important that you and your employer discuss your needs and determine what you need. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employer cannot refuse accommodation simply because that request doesn't fall within the company's policy. If you ask for, but cannot suggest, an appropriate accommodation, you and your employer should work together to come up with one.
Your employer may ask you for additional documentation about your disability and the reason why need the accommodation. However, the document requested should be limited to a doctor's note or other medical records, which show that you have a disability and need this accommodation to do your job. It is illegal for your employer to ask you to produce your entire medical record in order to get accommodation for a specific disability.
If you believe that your rights are being violated or that your employer has wrongfully fired you, please contact one of our experienced Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers who will remain on your side, fight for your rights and help ensure that you are fairly compensated for your losses.