In a case highlighting yet another significant distinction between California law and federal law, and the compliance burden the state’s laws impose on employers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed a verdict that an employer violated state disability law by failing to engage in the “interactive process,” even though the employer had satisfied its duty to provide a reasonable accommodation.

Ostensibly trying to reconcile the jury’s seemingly contradictory findings, the appeals court in Perona v. Time Warner Cable, Inc., No. 16-56897 (9th Cir. May 24, 2018) (unpublished), conceded that although the company in fact provided a reasonable accommodation to the plaintiff as required under state law, it nevertheless failed to comply with its ongoing duty to engage in the interactive process.

Under California law, unlike the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to engage in “a timely, good faith, interactive process with the employee or applicant to determine effective reasonable accommodations,” and failure to do so is considered an independent violation of state law. In this case, it cost the company $160,000 in damages, in addition to attorney’s fees and costs in excess of $1 million.

A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Perona is available here.

Members of the Center for Workplace Compliance (CWC) can read more here.