Don’t make a common employer mistake and assume that someone who is declared 100% disabled under a workers’ compensation claim can’t also be entitled to reasonable accommodations for a different job.
Recent case: When Los Angeles police Officer Rory Cuiellette was injured on the job, he filed for workers’. He was granted payments based on 100% disability after the insurer concluded he would never be able to do a police officer’s job again.
But Cuiellette returned to work on one of a number of desk jobs that the LAPD routinely offered to injured police officers who wanted to continue working. A few days later, when the city discovered that he was 100% disabled, Cuiellette was sent home.
He sued and a jury awarded him over $1.5 million in damages.
The city appealed, but the court refused to overturn the jury award. It told the city that workers’ compensation assessments are based on the ability to perform a pre-injury job. That still leaves open other positions. Disabled employees may have to be placed in open jobs that they are qualified to perform, with or without reasonable accommodations. (Cuiellette v. City of Los Angeles, No. B224303, California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate Division, 2011)
Final note: Always consider whether a disabled employee is able to perform another open position as an accommodation. While you don’t have to create a new job, you do have to consider the employee for current, open positions.