Hernandez v. Rancho Santiago Community College Dist.Annotate this Case
Plaintiff Marisa Hernandez worked for defendant Rancho Santiago Community College District on and off for a number of years without any complaints about her performance. In 2013, she was hired as an administrative assistant. During her one-year probationary period, her performance was to be evaluated at three months, seven months, and 11 months. At the completion of 12 months of probation, she would be considered a permanent employee. Eight months into her probationary period and with the district’s consent, she went on a temporary disability leave to have surgery to replace a knuckle on a finger she injured while working for the district prior to her most recent hiring. She was scheduled to return to work on, or shortly after, the anniversary of her hiring date. The district, however, terminated her while she was on the approved leave, because her performance had not been reviewed. Hernandez sued the district under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (the FEHA, Gov. Code, sec. 12940(m), (n)), contending it failed to make reasonable accommodation for her medical condition and failed to engage in an interactive process. At the conclusion of the court trial, the court found in Hernandez’s favor and awarded her $723,746 in damages. The trial court found the district could have accommodated her by extending her probationary period, by deducting the four months she was on disability leave from her probationary period, or by adding the time away from work to the probationary period, and, contrary to the district’s position, the district would not have been required to make Hernandez a permanent employee on the anniversary of her hiring. The district appealed, contending it had to terminate Hernandez’s probation and employment because if it did not, she would have become a permanent employee without having had her performance evaluated. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment.