Cameron County Detention Officer Receives Docked Benefits
A Cameron County Detention Officer’s fitness for duty was questioned by jail management when the Officer refused to patrol the jail facility grounds from a second story rooftop. The Officer had been diagnosed with acrophobia (fear of heights). The Officer had disclosed his condition before he was hired. He also disclosed his condition to his first supervisor. Upon being transferred to another facility, the first supervisor informed the new supervisor of this medical condition. The Officer notified his new supervisor of his condition as well. Upon refusing to work on the second story rooftop, the Officer was ordered by jail management to refrain from his job duties, visit his primary physician and fill out a form titled “Fitness for Duty Certification.” The Officer was supposed to return to his job duties after the form was filled out and submitted to the jail management. Concerned that his job ws in jeopardy, the Officer contacted the Attorney Roberto M. Garcia to represent his interests during the course of this process.
The Officer was facing a serious matter because an officer found to be unfit for duty can be disqualified from further employment under county civil service rules and there are no appeal rights for the affected employee. This is due to the nature of the action not being disciplinary.
Upon review by Mr. Garcia, it was noted that the job description for a detention officer made no mention as to the performance of work involving “heights” or any variation thereof. Mr. Garcia was convinced that no physician would find the Officer unfit for duty under terms of the job description. The Officer’s physician determined that the Officer was fit for duty and Mr. Garcia was able to convince county management that they were required to provide reasonable accommodations to the Officer’s condition. The county however, attempted to dock the Officer for the days that he had to be absent from work due to the jail management’s order. The Officer’s vacation, holiday and compensatory days were being docked. It was clear that the Officer was entitled to have his docked days reinstated as he was involuntarily absent as ordered by the jail management.
Attorney Roberto M. Garcia was able to convince the County that if they insisted on docking the Officer’s pay, the county would be liable under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Officer was returned to his job without any issues from the jail management and his benefits were restored without loss in pay.