February 22, 2021
Brown v. Los Angeles Unified School District, B294240 (Feb. 18, 2021)
A teacher sued her school district for failure to accommodate her hypersensitivity to the electromagnetic frequency of her school’s new Wi-Fi system, in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.
The trial court dismissed the case, but the Court of Appeal reversed.
The Court of Appeal explained the teacher adequately pled her cause of action for failure to provide reasonable accommodation. She alleged (a) she could not work because of various symptoms the school district warned could occur from exposure to the new Wi-Fi system, such as chronic pain, headaches, nausea, burning sensations on the skin etc., and (b) the school district failed to take sufficient positive steps to accommodate her sensitivity.
In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice John Wiley expressed concern about “giving any sort of green light to this unprecedented and unorthodox disability claim,” noting this court is the first in the United States “to allow a claim that ‘Wi-Fi can make you sick.’ ” Justice Wiley also raised concerns about using “junk science” in the courtroom and how the use of partisan expert witnesses has become problematic: “the highly partisan character of expert testimony can imperil the search for truth.” He encouraged the trial court in this case to take advantage of the option of using a court-appointed expert instead of partisan experts hired by the parties.