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It is well settled that permanent public employees in the state of California are entitled to certain benefits under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. But what about when an employer discontinues a reasonable accommodation that was offered in the past? A case recently decided by the Court of Appeal provides some guidance on the matter.
In this case the employees were former police recruits for the City of Los Angeles who were injured in the course of their training. While recovering, the recruits were placed in a program wherein they were paid fully to complete light-duty jobs. Called the Recycle program, participants stayed until their injuries were healed and they were able to go back to their regular jobs.
While the injured recruits were participating in the program, the city made a change regarding the length of time for which they were eligible, first cutting its duration to six months, and later discontinuing the program completely. Because at the time the duration was cut to six months, all five of the recruits who filed the claim, had been there longer than that, they were informed that if they were not able to return to training, they had to leave the department. The city said the recruits did not qualify for protection under the FEHA.
Under the FEHA, covered employers are required to provide workers who have physical or mental disabilities with reasonable accommodations in the workplace, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship on the employer. Among other things, reasonable accommodations could take the form of job restructuring or reassignment to a job that is less demanding.
The Court of Appeal found that the Plaintiffs satisfied the requirements for their failure to accommodate claim. The court further concluded that requiring the City to assign temporarily injured recruit officers to light-duty administrative assignments was not unreasonable due to the City’s past policy and practice of providing this type of accommodation.
If you believe your employer violated the FEHA by failing to provide an accommodation you may be able to take legal action. An employment lawyer can listen to your specific circumstances and explain your options.