California senate pays $350,000 discrimination claim

A former employee of the California Senate won a discrimination suit against her former employer for failing to accommodate her needs and retaliating against her for requesting accommodations. The Senate was ordered to pay the former employee $350,000 — a figure that’s at least twice as high as any previous settlement.

The former employee claimed that she was raped by an Assembly employee in late 2016. She reported the rape to the police, but the alleged rapist was never charged. The Assembly hired its own lawyers to investigate and failed to substantiate her allegations.

However, the woman continued to suffer from both physical and emotional distress as a result of the rape. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and asked for accommodations that would help her. Those included having a parking space moved so that she didn’t have to see her alleged rapist and the need to miss work on occasion. She also asked for her alleged rapist to barred from the Senate floor, where she worked.

Ultimately, she was fired without warning over “minor” performance issue — an act that she believed stemmed from her requests for accommodation. She ultimately agreed to settle the case for the sum mentioned above.

What’s interesting to note about this case is that the victim was entitled to accommodation for her disorder even though the rape was never substantiated. (A fact that’s hardly surprising, given that less than 1 percent of rapes lead to a felony conviction, nationwide.) It’s possible that her employers may have felt like it was safe to ignore her need for accommodation due to her PTSD because of that.

However, it doesn’t matter if the source of an employee’s disorder is verified or not. What matters is that the employee had a legitimate diagnosis and a genuine need for reasonable accommodations — nothing more.

If you’ve been denied reasonable accommodations for your disability because your employer doesn’t seem to think you’re “disabled enough” or have a legitimate need, you don’t have to accept that kind of treatment. There are legal options available, and you can find out more by talking to an attorney.