David Flores was employed by the City of San Diego as a mechanical inspector when he was involved in a car accident while on the job in 2006. He suffered an injury to his spine during the crash and was off for several months recuperating from the crash.
When he did return, he completed his daily tasks in an "exemplary manner." A 2009 evaluation of his condition resulted in a limitation against climbing ladders in the workers compensation report. The city did not believe it could accommodate the restriction and terminated Flores in 2010.
The problem with his termination, argued his attorney, was that the city was relying on worker's compensation standards in determining whether they could accommodate Flores' injury when in fact it should have been applying the reasonable accommodation standard for disabled workers under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). California employers with five or more employees are also required to provided reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
Although an accommodation cannot impose an 'undue hardship' on an employer - such as being extremely costly or causing a major disruption in the work day - refusing to allow Flores to continue working purely because of the restriction against climbing ladders, argued his attorney, was refusing to make a reasonable accommodation as required by law. The City of San Diego will discuss its next move in the case at a closed session of the city council on June 12.
The ADA and FEHA protects both current employees as well as job applicants.
Source: UTSan Diego, "Former employee wins $500k from city of SD," Pat Flynn, May 24, 2012