Your Legal Rights in California When Your Workplace Injury Turns into a Wrongful Termination When you have a disability -- whether it is a chronic condition or a temporary injury -- all you want is to be treated fairly. Too often, that doesn't happen. Some employers see only extra absences and additional accommodations, decide that you are too "costly" and fire you. When that happens to you, a knowledgeable San Mateo wrongful termination lawyer can help you protect your legal rights. Take, for example, the wrongful termination case of a security worker here in Northern California. The worker, D.Z., was a field supervisor for the company that provided security at Apple's main headquarters in Cupertino. One week into the job, the supervisor tripped over a curb while running to respond to a medical emergency. The supervisor tore the meniscus in his knee and needed arthroscopic surgery. The worker's doctor stated in June 2011 that he "could return to modified work and do the following tasks: keyboarding, operating cash, supervising others that perform physical tasks, driving, and sitting for up to eight hours." He could not, however, stand for more than two hours at a time, walk for more than one hour, or do any climbing. A few months later, Apple decided to reduce its budget for security services by $7 million. D.Z.'s employer laid off four of its 19 supervisors. D.Z. was one of those four. D.Z. sued for wrongful termination. After a lack of success in the trial court, the worker secured a more favorable ruling in the Court of Appeal. The law required the use of the "McDonnell Douglas Test" (which is based upon the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case of McDonnell Douglas v. Green) to assess the worker's claims. That test says that, in cases like this one, the worker initially bears the burden of proving that they have a prima facie case. If the worker clears that hurdle, the burden shifts to the employer to present a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its action. If the employer does that, the burden shifts back to the worker to establish that the legitimate reason the employer stated really was just a pretext for its true (illegal) motivation. Establishing a prima facie case in a lawsuit like this one involves three things: (1) demonstrating that you had a disability, (2) showing that you could do the essential tasks of the position with or without an accommodation, and (3) establishing that you were terminated because of your disability. With regard to that second piece, the court said that workers can meet that criterion by showing that, even if they were rendered unable to do the tasks of their old job, they "could perform the essential functions" of a different job as long as that alternate position was vacant and did not require the employer giving the worker a promotion. In D.Z.'s situation, the employer never discussed any alternate positions with him. That failure meant that the termination potentially was wrongful and D.Z. was entitled to continue pursuing his claims.