Open accommodations: Sonoma settles agoraphobia case

In a case filed by a 24-year human services department employee who was diagnosed with panic disorder and agoraphobia, Sonoma County agreed to settle a claim that the county failed to accommodate his disability.

Jurors originally awarded George Alberigi $1,547,037 in economic damages and $4,950,963 in noneconomic damages. However, finding the noneconomic damages excessive, the judge reduced the award by $4 million.

Alberigi claimed that his disorder and agoraphobia left him unable to conduct face-to-face interviews to determine individuals’ eligibility for Medi-Cal. The county accommodated Alberigi by giving him a caseload that did not require face-to-face contact. However, it also told him that he had to make in-person interviews to be considered for a promotion. The trial court found that the county had stopped accommodating Alberigi’s disorder even though reasonable steps were available.

Final note: Your obligation to accommodate disabilities continues and does not end as soon as you reach agreement on one accommodation. Plus, you can’t preclude disabled employees from promotions just because they may need new and different accommodations.