Furtado v. State Pers. Bd

There can be legally cognizable claim for discrimination or failure to provide a reasonable accommodation where doing so would essentially constitute the elimination of physical job requirements.

In this case, a correctional officer with the State’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation suffered an off duty injury resulting in his inability to have full range of motion with respect to his shoulder, forearm and elbow. Upon return to work the Department after conducting certain fitness exams determined that he was not able or capable of using a side handle baton, as a result, the Department eventually transferred to an administrative non-correctional officer position, determining that the use of a side handle baton was an essential function of the position for defending aggressive inmates. In response, the employee correctional officer filed an appeal to the State Personnel Board, arguing in part that the department had acted in a discriminatory way by denying him a reasonable accommodation for his disability and in medically demoting him. The Board denied such appeal and sought relief from the trial court which denied his request.

The Court of Appeals

The California Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that substantial evidence supported the Board’s finding that the employee correctional officer was unable to perform the essential functions of a correctional officer, specifically the ability to use a baton to protect and keep in line aggressive inmates. Seeking to counter such argument, the employee correctional officer attempted to articulate that using a baton was not necessarily an essential function of such position and that he was not seeking that the Department create a brand new position on his behalf, but rather was asking for a reasonable modification of a requirement that was considered relatively insignificant. The California Court of Appeals, rejected these arguments by the employee correctional officer, arguing in relevant and pertinent part that the proficient and complete use of a baton was necessary for a correctional officer in defending against aggressive inmates and to assist other correctional officers, all of which were considered to be essential job functions to which the correctional officer was incapable of performing. Additionally, the California Court of Appeals determined that the employee correctional officer, although denying such, was constructively seeking the department create a new administrative position for him. The significance of this case is that employers do not have to make a reasonable accommodation where it involves essential functions of such position.

Employment based claims involving a large employer requires a law firm that is experienced, competent, and knowledgeable concerning the complexities of employment disability and accommodation based claims. If you have any employment-related dispute and are considering suing your employer or an employer involved with disability based claims contact the Orange County Employment Lawyers at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside, and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.