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Issues that affect ministers and churches
California Court Rejects Religious School’s Motion to Dismiss Disability Discrimination Claim
Key point 8-14.1. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers with at least 15 employees, and that are engaged in interstate commerce, from discriminating in any employment decision against a qualified individual with a disability who is able, with or without reasonable accommodation from the employer, to perform the essential functions of the job. Accommodations that impose an undue hardship upon an employer are not required. Religious organizations may give preference to nondisabled members of their faith over disabled persons who are members of a different faith.

A federal district court in California rejected a church-affiliated school's motion to dismiss a former employee's disability discrimination claim. A 67-year-old teacher (the "plaintiff") at a church-operated school sustained serious injuries as a result of a fall in a stairwell at her school causing her to strike her head. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff suffered from "vision problems, including symptoms of dizziness, instability, loss of balance, and double vision and migraine headaches." Due to her injuries the plaintiff has fallen on several occasions and is no longer able to drive at night.

After the fall, the plaintiff requested, and received, a one-week leave of absence. During this leave, the plaintiff claimed that she received electronic communications from the school principal "pressuring her to return to work." Over the next several months, the principal inquired about the plaintiff's health and was told she continued to suffer from double vision, dizziness, and migraines.

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