Employees in California and throughout the country may have some legal recourse if they are in a hostile work environment. In one case, a man who had neuropathy worked on a production line. Neuropathy causes muscles to degenerate, and the man slowly lost control over his extremities. The man wore leg braces, and his coworkers knew he had neuropathy.
The man says his coworkers imitated his limp and called him names like “Forrest Gump” and “cripple.” He said he felt stressed and eager to leave work every day as a result. The man’s condition worsened, and he spoke to a supervisor about a possible need to take leave time per the Family and Medical Leave Act. He was then fired several days later. The reason his employer gave was that he was neglecting his duties and paying his bills while at work.
He filed a lawsuit against his employer. He alleged a hostile work environment and said that the FMLA request was a reasonable accommodation that was ignored. The court agreed with his characterization of the situation, and a jury will make a final decision. The lesson for both employers and employees is that workers should not be teased or bullied on the job for a disability.
FMLA leave can be complex, and in some cases, both employers and employees may fail to fully understand its implications. However, employers may also deliberately deny an employee FMLA leave that they are eligible for. Whatever the case, people who feel they have been retaliated against for requesting FMLA leave may want to speak to an attorney about their rights and how to proceed.