Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Courts Finds Some Limits to Duty to Accommodate Disabled Peace Officers

In Lui v. City and County of San Francisco (2012) 211 Cal. App. 4th 692, the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, ruled it may not be discriminatory for a department to terminate a peace officer who cannot perform all the essential duties of an officer, when the peace officer’s limitations are due to a disability. After suffering a major heart attack, a 24-year veteran retired after he was informed by his department that there were no administrative positions available that did not require him to perform the strenuous physical duties regularly performed by patrol officers in the field. He then sued under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) alleging discrimination and failure to accommodate. Following a court trial, judgment was entered in favor of the City and County of San Francisco and on appeal, the appellate court affirmed.

The San Francisco Police Department had a general order which stated that if an officer is assigned to an administrative position, he or she must be able to perform the essential functions of the full duty police officer, such as making forcible arrests, pursuing fleeing suspects and responding to emergency situations. The Court noted not all police officer positions exist for the purpose of enforcing the law and protecting the public and that officers in administrative positions are not frequently required to engage in strenuous duties. However, in this case, the Court said thse duties are essential functions of administrative positions because that department has a legitimate need to be able to deploy officers in administrative positions in the event of emergencies and other mass mobilizations.