March 20, 2003
Disability Compliance Bulletin
Case name: Doner v. City of Rockford, 25 NDLR 155 (N.D. Ill. 2003).
Ruling: A police department was not liable for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a police investigator with multiple sclerosis who used a wheelchair.
What it means: One of the essential functions of all police work is the ability to be mobile.
Summary: A police investigator alleged that his employer failed to engage in an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation. The District Court held the employer did not violate the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. "Generally, employers of police officers, like employers of correctional officers, have a legitimate reason to require that all officers be physically able to engage in physical altercations when the circumstances require. ... The fact an officer may not need to use this ability in his day to day duties does not diminish the need to possess the ability in the event of emergency when all officers may be called upon to act," the court noted. In this case, the investigator could not run or engage in physical altercations. These activities were essential functions of his position. Although the employer allowed the investigator to maintain his position without requiring him to perform the essential functions, this demonstrated only that the department hoped the investigator's condition would improve, the court explained. As a result, the investigator was not qualified for his position and, the employer was not obligated to engage in the interactive process, the court held.
Although the investigator identified other positions for which he
believed he was qualified, he did not demonstrate that vacancies
existed for these positions or that he was qualified.
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