Ryan Staiger recently won a settlement against the City of Merced for allegedly discriminating against him on the basis of his disability. Staiger received an agreement for a $425,000 settlement in late November.
The case began after Stainger was hired as a firefighter in 2007. He was soon retracted from duty when the Merced Fire Department’s medical doctors determined that he has residual affects from an arm fracture that he received as a teenager. Stainger then filed a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) in 2008 against the fire department.
The medical exam that Stainger failed was performed by a city doctor and private specialist based on National Fire Protection Association standards. The doctors believed that Stainger’s range of motion was limited in his right wrist and elbow and because of this the doctors felt he was unable to perform the essential duties.
The commission decided to take the case and argued that the reason given for the termination was pretextual because the limitations Stainger experienced would not impede his ability to serve as a wilderness firefighter. The DFEH also argued that the city failed to establish that Stainger would actually be unable to perform the essential tasks in question.
The DFEH asserts that this type of decision to retract the offer to hire Stainger was improper because the fire department could have done a more through and personalized assessment by testing abilities to compensate for the limited range of motion in Stainger’s arm.
The DFEH also claimed that the city failed to tell Stainger that he had the right to get a second opinion from a doctor of his choice. Although the city alleges that it did notify Stainger that he had this right.
After leaving the Merced Fire Department Stainger began working with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
California Antidiscrimination Law Prevents Employers from Using Disabilities as a Reason to Screen Qualified Employees
California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act makes it illegal for an employer to take adverse employment action against a job applicant or employee just because of the employee’s disability. There is an exception to this when the employee’s disability makes the employee unqualified because of a bona fide occupational qualification, which is what the fire department in this case alleged. However, showing a true bona fide occupational qualification exists is not an easy task for employers.
If you believed that your employer has discriminated against you contact the experienced California Employment Law Attorneys of the Law Offices of Michael S. Cunningham, LLP. You can schedule a free consultation by calling (951) 213-4786.