Inability To Work With A Particular Supervisor Is Not A DisabilityWork Disability 06.04.2015
As employment lawyers, we have to tell people all the time that there is no such thing as a “Bad Boss Law.” That is, the mere fact that you work for a supervisor who is hard to deal with is not against the law. The Court of Appeal recently reaffirmed this concept in a case involving a claim for mental disability. Under California law, an employee has a protected disability where she has a physical or mental condition that “limits a major life activity.” This is quite broad but it has limits. In Higgins-Williams v. Sutter Medical Foundation, the plaintiff contended that she had a mental disability of an anxiety disorder that prevented her from working for a particular supervisor but that did not otherwise interfere with her ability to do her job. She demanded a reassignment to a different supervisor. If she had a recognized disability, the employer might have to grant such a request as a reasonable accommodation of her disability. But the Court of Appeal held that this does not constitute a disability within the meaning of the Fair Employment and Housing Act’s protections against disability discrimination.
This ruling does little more than reaffirm that there is no Bad Boss Law. Mental conditions can still constitute disabilities under California law. California employers can still be required to accommodate such mental conditions. But these conditions must be genuine disabilities that limit some broad life activity. The bottom line is the fact that your boss stresses you out is not going to get you a transfer.