A recent ruling from the California Court of Appeal for the 2nd District recognizes the limits on an employer’s reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee.

In Nealy v. City of Santa Monica, the Plaintiff worker who was employed as a solid waste equipment operator for the City of Santa Monica, sustained a knee injury that rendered him unable to perform his job. The City allowed him to make a lateral move to a groundskeeper position. When he sustained another injury and was physically unable to perform as a groundskeeper, Mr. Nealy asked to be returned to his original position. However, there was undisputed evidence that, even after several surgeries, Mr. Nealy was unable to perform the essential functions of a solid waste equipment operator.

The Court agreed with the City that eliminating an essential job function is not a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The Court also held that the FEHA does not require reassignment of an employee to a new position if there is no vacant position for which the employee is qualified, and that the FEHA does not require the employer to provide indefinite leave of absence to await possible future vacancies. Therefore, the City was not required to reassign Mr. Nealy to a new position or to wait for a vacant position to arise, when no other vacant positions for which he was qualified existed, and when his physician declared him at “maximum medical improvement.”

To find out more about an employer’s requirements to provide reasonable accommodations under the FEHA, contact the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat at (760) 779-1313.

[Reference: Nealy v. City of Santa Monica (2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 359]