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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Furtado v. State Personnel Board: Corrections Dept. Did Not Discriminate Against Officer Who Could Not Perform Essential Functions of Position after Injury

Furtado v. State Personnel Board (1/7/13) --- Cal.App.4th --- is another decision dealing with the essential functions of a police officer. See Lui v. City and County of San Francisco (2012) --- Cal.App.4th --- (discussed here); Cuiellette v. City of Los Angeles (2011) 194 Cal.App.4th 757.

Bruce Furtado worked for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as a correctional lieutenant. He was classified as a peace officer and was required to certify annually in the use of a baton. Furtado suffered permanent injuries in an auto accident that left him unable to use a baton. The Department concluded that he could not perform the duties of a correctional lieutenant, with or without accommodation, and medically demoted him to a non-peace officer position.

Furtado appealed to the State Personnel Board ("SPB"), contending that the Department had discriminated against him: (1) in denying him reasonable accommodation for his disability; and (2) in medically demoting him. After a hearing, the SPB denied the appeal, concluding that Furtado was not qualified for the correctional lieutenant position, and that the Department properly demoted him to a non-peace officer position.

Furtado then filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Superior Court, which was denied. Furtado appealed that ruling, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, finding: 
  1. Substantial evidence supported the PRB's conclusion that Furtado could not perform the essential functions of the correctional lieutenant position because: (a) he could not use a baton to defend himself and others or disarm, subdue, and apply restraints to an inmate (slip op. at 21-25); (b) being proficient with a baton is a reasonable requirement of the position (slip op. at 26-28); (c) no accommodation would allow Furtado to perform these essential functions (slip op. at 28-29). 
  2. Reassignment to an "administrative" correctional lieutenant position would not constitute accommodation, but would excuse Furtado from performing all of the essential functions of the position. Slip op. at 29-37.  "A correctional lieutenant must be able to perform the full range of duties, not just the ones to which they are typically assigned." Slip op. at 31. 
  3. Substantial evidence supported the PRB's conclusion that the medical demotion was proper because Furtado could not perform the essential functions of the correctional lieutenant position. Slip op. at 38-40. 
The opinion is available here

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