ADA Does Not Require Light Duty For Oft-Injured Officer

ADA Does Not Require Light Duty For Oft-Injured Officer

Written on 09/01/2020
Will Aitchison

Kristal Scott suffered multiple injuries during the time that she was employed as a Detroit police officer. In 2011, she fell down the stairs while on duty responding to a call. On July 13, 2012, during job-required scooter training, she crashed her scooter into a metal barricade at low speed when an insect flew into her helmet and she attempted to avoid hitting a bike. On September 20, 2012, she fell out of her chair and hit her head when the chair rolled out from under her.

On February 6, 2013, she fell down the stairs when her knee gave out on her. While receiving treatment for this injury, she was diagnosed with a torn meniscus in her right knee. She also discovered that she was pregnant shortly after this injury and was allegedly told by the police medical department that she could not be provided treatment for her injury during her pregnancy. At some point in 2014, she was involved in a car accident while off duty.

Scott has been on restricted duty since 2012. She was placed on permanent restricted duty on November 12, 2014, and she continued to be granted that status. Most recently, she was assigned to work as a restricted duty officer at the gun desk, which involved clerical duties and matters related to gun registration, stolen firearms, criminal background checks, licenses to purchase, and investigating concealed pistol license issues.

When James Craig became chief of police in 2013, he began trying to civilianize more positions that had traditionally been held by sworn officers because it was his goal to take those officers who were in these traditionally non-sworn positions and place them back in the field. Craig was “totally opposed to those officers who were permanently disabled staying in sworn positions. When someone says you can no longer work in the field as a police officer, you are permanently disabled, that’s the trigger.”

In 2016, an evaluation showed that Scott could not perform eight of the essential job functions of a police officer involving physical requirements. Among the requirements she could not meet were the ability to use force if necessary to make an arrest, navigate various physical obstacles, enter and exit vehicles quickly for purposes of emergencies or pursuing suspects, perform patrol functions for long periods without relief, physically move people or heavy objects as necessary, pursue fleeing suspects on foot, physically subdue resisting subjects, and use bodily force to enter through physical barriers for investigative or rescue functions.

When Scott was given a duty disability retirement, she sued, claiming that the City violated Michigan’s law against disability discrimination by failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation. In particular, Scott wanted to remain in her job at the gun desk.

The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Scott’s lawsuit. The Court found that “there is no genuine dispute of material fact that Scott was unable to perform all of the 24 essential functions of a Detroit police officer. There was no dispute that Scott’s requested accommodation of being assigned to the gun desk did not, and could not, make her able to perform the 24 essential functions of a Detroit police officer.

“Scott could not demonstrate that any disability that she may have had was unrelated to her ability to perform the job functions of a police officer. Therefore, Scott’s claims fail.”

Scott v. City of Detroit, 2020 WL 2505385 (Mich. App. 2020).

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