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In January 2020, Trump Ninth Circuit judge Eric Miller dissented in a 2-1 decision against Comcast for wrongfully terminating an employee for requesting medical accommodation to recover from surgery after suffering a brain hemorrhage. The case is Rodriguez v. Comcast.
Gloria Rodriguez, had been Comcast employee for more than 20 years when she suffered a brain hemorrhage. Rodriguez underwent brain surgery and went on medical leave. After her surgery, she had vision, speech and balance issues, but her doctors indicated that her condition was temporary and that with time, she would heal and return to work. Based on their prognosis, she requested medical leave for several months to heal. But Comcast believed that her leave was extensive and would possibly be indefinite, and eventually terminated her.
Rodriguez sued Comcast in district court for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation and violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Comcast moved for summary judgment and the district court sided with Comcast. Rodriguez appealed.
The majority vacated the district court’s summary judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings. They concluded that requests for accommodation are protected activity, and federal and California law strongly protects individuals from retaliation against such requests.
Judge Miller disagreed and asserted that under two California Court of Appeals decisions, Rodriguez’s requests for medical accommodation would not be considered protected activity.