Inability to Use Firearm after Work Injury Sink’s Officer’s ADA Claims

Frank Ferreri

Orlando, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Not every law enforcement job requires firearm use, but for some, keeping up with firearm qualifications is essential.

As the court explained in Bracero v. Orlando, No. 6:19-cv-1657-WWB-GJK (M.D. Fla. 03/08/21), a would-be sergeant’s inability to use her gun after an on-the-job injury meant she could not establish a vital part of her disability discrimination claim.

Injury, Job Changes

A police officer experienced an injury to her right hand and wrist during an on-duty training and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Later, she filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that she was denied medical pension benefits and promotions and was subjected to different terms and conditions of employment as well as harassment and intimidation.

According to the officer, the department required her to work from a storage closet on administrative tasks, denied her a work vehicle, withheld performance reviews, and a rejected her promotion to sergeant.

The department noted that after the officer’s injury, she directed and managed the delivery of computer equipment, training, and compliance when the department rolled out a new computer project. While the room the officer was assigned to had previously been used a storage space, the department put in new carpet and office furniture at her request.

The department also asserted that the officer could not serve in the sergeant role because her injury left her unable to qualify with firearms, which was required for the position.

The EEOC found insufficient information to conclude that the department violated the law, so the officer sued the department in court, claiming that the department violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Essential Functions

Under the ADA, an employee claiming disability discrimination must show that she can perform the essential functions of her job with or without an accommodation.

In this case, the court found that the officer could not perform an essential function of her position.

“All law enforcement officers are required to demonstrate proficiency in firearms,” the court wrote, citing Florida law. “If an officer fails to demonstrate proficiency … she ‘shall not perform the duties of a sworn officer.’”

Because the officer was unable to use a firearm after the work-related injury, the court reasoned that she could not perform an essential function of the job. The court also concluded that removing the firearm requirement was not a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and thus, the officer’s disability discrimination claim fell short.

As a result, the court granted summary judgment to the department and dismissed the officer’s case.

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