Friday, September 10, 2010

California judge extends Quinn discretion to private employers

Image Courtesy of Media Bistro
On Tuesday, Federal Judge Jeffery White ruled that private employers have the discretion to determine the qualifications of an employee's jobs in disability discrimination cases echoing and expanding a state court ruling in Quinn v. City of Los Angeles.

According to court documents, Lavon Hill, Jr. worked as a "general worker" for Bayer Healthcare LLC in Berkley for several years before developing a condition that limited his ability to twist and grasp with his hands.  His job required twisting and grasping in a sanitary area.  Mr. Hill claimed that he could do the job if he  was allowed to wear a wrist brace.  Bayer stated that it could not allow Mr. Hill to do this since the brace would soil the sanitary area in violation of a federal regulation.  It terminated Mr. Hill who sued under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

The court explained that to succeed in a disability discrimination lawsuit the plaintiff must show that he was disabled but able to complete the functions of his job or able to do so with a reasonable accommodation.  The court explained that Mr. Hill was incapable of performing the job functions because he was unable to twist or grasp in a sanitary area without the brace.

While Mr. Hill argued that the brace was a reasonable accommodation, the Court stated:
In Quinn v. City of Los Angeles [,] the court found that requiring that a police officer pass a medical examination, including a hearing test, was within the discretion of the employer. The court found that the setting the parameters of an employee’s qualifications is “solely to be determined by the [employer] itself.” [Likewise], in this matter, Bayer has the authority, following the regulations governing the pharmaceutical industry, to set the minimal requirements for its employees. The Court finds here it is entirely within Bayer's discretion to forbid the use of any wrist brace within the aseptic area in order to minimize the possibility of contamination of their pharmaceutical product.
The court granted Bayer summary judgment.

The case is Hill v. Bayer Healthcare, LLC No. C 09-0235, and the opinion is below the jump.

Here is the opinion:
Hill v. Bayer Healthcare LLC

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