Former Louisiana Deputy’s ADA Claims Dismissed Because He Was Not Present At Work To Determine Whether His Disability Would Be Accommodated

By: Loyd Willaford & Brittany Torrence

In Moore v. Mancuso, the U. S. District Court of Louisiana dismissed a Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office (CPSO)  deputy’s  claim that the CPSO did not accommodate his disability.

Paul Moore worked for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office (CPSO) from February 15, 2006, to May 11, 2012, as a deputy in both the patrol and corrections divisions. While assigned to the corrections division, Moore was injured when he broke up a fight between inmates. As a result of the injuries sustained breaking up the fight, Moore required medical care and was temporarily placed on restricted duty. Eventually Moore’s injuries required surgery, and he was completely restricted from work during his recovery. Moore eventually returned to his position with reasonable accommodations. On April 24, 2012, the Commander of Corrections for the CPSO was notified that a lieutenant had brought sexual harassment allegations against Moore. After conducting interviews, an internal affair investigator determined that Moore had harassed another officer during work hours and that Moore had used derogatory language toward that officer.  The Sheriff’s Officer transferred Moore to a different division. However, Moore did not return to work, but rather used accrued sick leave until, upon his supervisor’s request, Moore submitted a document specifying the limitations his disability imposed on his work. After submitting the document, Moore claimed he was told that he was “more of a liability than an asset.” The CPSO terminated Moore on May 11, 2012.   Moore sued, alleging disability discrimination and violations of state law.  In a previous ruling, the Court dismissed Moore’s claims that his firing was the result of disability discrimination.  The current ruling related only to Moore’s claims that the CPSO did not accommodate his disability

According to Moore, the CPSO was unwilling to engage in good faith in an interactive process to accommodate his disability, and the reason for Moore’s termination was pretextual. While Moore did not attend work from the time of the transfer until the date of his termination, he argued that he was unable to attend for medical reasons. This court determined that:

Regardless, it is undisputed that the deputy was not present at work during the time period between the transfer and his termination, and thus there was no opportunity for the CPSO to provide reasonable accommodation at the Calcasieu Correctional Center. Moreover, the CPSO had made reasonable accommodations that satisfied Moore up until the time of the transfer, and there is no evidence that similar accommodations would not have been made at the Calcasieu Correctional Center.

Therefore, the court found that Moore did not afford the CPSO the opportunity to provide accommodation given that he was absent on sick leave from date of transfer until discharge.  This was sufficient to dismiss Moore’s failure to accommodate claim.

This case illustrates how bad facts can taint an otherwise potentially viable claim Moore was fired before starting in the new position, immediately after requesting disability accommodations. Normally, this would suggest that a jury could find he was discriminated against.  But the fact that CPSO had found that Moore had committed sexual harassment and was transferred and terminated because of that.  This led the Court to conclude that Moore’s firing was not based on the CPSO’s failure to accommodate his disability.

This case also illustrates how important it is for an employee to participate in discussions with the employer regarding accommodations.  It is the employee’s burden to show that “interactive process” was not followed by the employer.  Generally, this will mean going to work to see if the employer implements the requested accommodations.   

**Visit our Premium Website for more information on Disability Discrimination