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Catholic Healthcare West owns and operates medical facilities in California and other states, including Mercy Medical Center Redding, a hospital and related facilities located in Redding, California. Janet Anderson started working at Mercy as a registered nurse in 1979.

In 2005, Anderson experienced medical symptoms – itching all over her arms and torso – that were consistent with an allergic reaction. Anderson went to the employee health department to undergo a “RAST” test for sensitivity to latex.

Before the results of the RAST test were known, Anderson was called to a meeting with the director of perioperative services, Jeanette Smith, and the OR manager, Kirk Williams. Smith had been hired by Mercy five months earlier to make the OR department financially more efficient and attract more physicians to perform surgeries at Mercy. As part of that effort, Smith evaluated Anderson’s position and duties and found them to be nonessential. Smith informed Anderson the position of OR data coordinator was being eliminated as part of a reorganization of the OR.At no time during the meeting was Anderson’s allergic reaction or the possibility the reaction was caused by latex exposure discussed. Anderson applied for and obtained a position as a circulating nurse in the outpatient surgery center.

Later it was determined that Anderson’s symptoms were related to latex sensitivity.

Anderson experienced another allergic reaction at work on March 11, 2005, and went to the emergency room. Anderson discussed the latex allergy with her supervisor at the outpatient surgery center who then designated one of the rooms as a latex-free area for Anderson to perform many of her duties. She continued to be reactive at work. Anderson stopped working and filed a workers’ compensation claim relating to the allergic reactions in March.

Anderson’s medical records described subsequent allergic reactions to latex in non-hospital settings and to such products as automobile tires, furniture, food products and food packaging. She was found to be sensitive to foods handled by food workers wearing latex gloves, and to latex on chairs and seats in movie theaters and restaurants. Her physician wrote on March 19, 2007, that Anderson “remains unemployable outside of her own home, which she has purposefully made latex free.” Later he released her to transitional (modified) work, full-time depending on location, with no exposure to latex products. Efforts were made by the employer to locate work but she could not be returned to outpatient surgery, or to any other clinical locations within or outside of the hospital proper due to possible latex exposure.

Anderson filed a civil action which alleged five causes of action under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. After a court trial, judgment was entered in Mercy’s favor and Anderson appealed. The Court of Appeal in the unpublished decision of Janet Anderson v Catholic Healthcare West affirmed the judgment in favor of the employer. Anderson failed to demonstrate on appeal the trial court’s decision with respect to disability discrimination and wrongful termination based on disability was unsupported by substantial evidence.