Jensen v. Wells Fargo Bank

In Jensen v. Wells Fargo Bank (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 245, the plaintiff was a bank branch manager who had worked for Wells Fargo and banks acquired by it for 16 years but developed post-traumatic stress disorder after being the victim of an attempted bank robbery. (85 Cal.App.4th at p. 249.) Unable to function as a branch manager, she was put on leave while the bank attempted to reassign her. She was offered some reassignments but rejected them; and she applied for, but was not selected for, several other open positions. Jensen sued under the FEHA. (Id. at p. 252-253.) Although the leave of absence the bank had granted her was considered a form of accommodation, the court characterized such a leave as a "way to put a disabled employee on hold while the attempt to locate a permanent position is ongoing." (Id. at p. 264.) The bank was not entitled to summary judgment because there was a triable issue as to which party caused the interactive process to break down. (Id. at pp. 264-266.) In Jensen v. Wells Fargo Bank (2000) the employee, a branch manager suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder caused by a bank robbery, requested the accommodation of reassignment to a different position or branch. (Jensen, supra, 85 Cal.App.4th at pp. 249-250.) The defendant employer asserted it could not accommodate the employee by reassigning her to other positions because she either lacked the required skills or qualifications, or there were others who were better qualified for the available positions. (Id. at p. 264.) The appellate court rejected that assertion because it "overlooks that when reassignment of an existing employee is the issue, the disabled employee is entitled to preferential consideration." (Id. at p. 265.) The court reversed summary judgment in the employer's favor, stating, "having failed to establish unequivocally that the employee was unqualified for any vacant position within the organization, summary judgment was inappropriate on this ground." (Ibid.)