In this unlawful employment practice case, plaintiff argues that defendants violated the Handicapped Persons' Civil
Plaintiff was employed as a deputy sheriff 103, which is the civil service classification for the patrol deputy position. While on duty, she sustained a permanent injury in an automobile accident. As a result of the injury, she suffers headaches and occasional numbness in her left arm which affects her ability to hold and grasp things. Her treating physician and a consulting physician advised defendants that she would always be susceptible to serious injury to her head and neck and that, due to that condition, she should not be reinstated to her former position as a patrol deputy, which requires that she be able to work in the field on patrol, or to any other position where she could sustain a blow to her head or neck.
Plaintiff's physician advised defendants that she could do clerical work. At the physician's request, defendants assigned her to a light duty desk officer position, which is a temporary position that rotates every 30 to 60 days but can be extended. It is staffed by officers who are temporarily disabled or are suffering from "burnout." In February, 1982, after nine months assignment as a desk officer, plaintiff was notified that, due to the temporary nature of the position and her permanent disability, she would be laid off from her position as a deputy sheriff 103.
After receiving the layoff notice, plaintiff demanded reinstatement to her former position or another suitable position, pursuant to ORS 659.415 and ORS 659.420. Defendants discussed alternatives to layoff with her and extended the date of layoff until May 31, 1982. Two months after plaintiff was laid off, she was offered a position as a community service officer (CSO) in the department. The CSO provides backup for desk officers by taking telephone reports and dealing with walk-in complaints. Unlike the desk officer, the CSO does not wear a uniform and cannot make arrests. The position does not have the same degree of responsibility as the patrol deputy and pays approximately half the salary. Two months after the offer (during which time defendants held the position open for her), she accepted it.
Plaintiff argues that defendants violated ORS 659.415(1) by not reinstating her as a deputy sheriff 103. That statute provides that a worker who sustains an injury shall be reinstated upon demand, "provided that the position is available and the worker is not disabled from performing the duties of such position." Here, plaintiff has not presented evidence which shows that she is physically capable of performing the duties of a patrol deputy.
Plaintiff next asserts that defendants violated ORS 659.420 by failing to reemploy her in another position which was "available and suitable." ORS 659.420(1) provides:
Plaintiff contends that, although her present position as a CSO was available, it is not suitable, because of the substantial difference in salary, duties and responsibilities between it and her former position. In Carney v. Guard Publishing Co., 48 Or.App. 147, 152, 616 P.2d 548, mod. 48 Or.App. 927, 630 P.2d 867, rev. den. 290 Or. 171 (1980), we recognized that, although the policy of the Handicapped Persons' Civil Rights Act is "the fullest employment of handicapped persons which is compatible with the reasonable demands of the job * * *, [a]n employer's statutory duty to reemploy injured workers is not absolute." The act does not demand that an employer create positions or substitute an injured employe for a non-injured one. Carney v. Guard Publishing Co., supra. Neither is an employer obligated to offer a selection of equally suitable jobs or hold its offer open for an unreasonable period of time. Carney v. Guard Publishing Co., supra. The relevant factors in determining whether a position is suitable include the employe's educational background and work experience, previous salary, previous level of responsibility, record with the employer, the nature and severity of the disability and the employer's size, diversity and hiring needs. Carney v. Guard Publishing Co., supra.
As a CSO, plaintiff performs some of the duties and uses some of the skills that she acquired as a deputy sheriff 103. The duties of the position are consistent with her physician's opinion of her capabilities. Although her salary as a CSO is half that of a deputy sheriff 103, and she does not have the same level of responsibility that she previously had, there were no other positions which were "available and suitable" between the time when she was laid off and when she accepted the CSO position.
At the time plaintiff was laid off, there were a limited number of one- and two-year job assignments in the sheriff's department which rotated among the patrol deputies.
After plaintiff accepted the CSO position, defendants created several new positions in the property room, which did not require the deputy sheriff 103 status and offered a higher salary. Plaintiff applied for one of the positions, but was not hired. However, once defendants offered plaintiff the CSO position, their statutory duty to afford her preference in hiring expired. Carney v. Guard Publishing Co., supra, 48 Or. App. at 152, 616 P.2d 548. We hold that, due to the specialized and limited hiring needs of the department, the CSO position is suitable and that defendants did not violate ORS 659.420.
Plaintiff's final argument is that defendants unlawfully discriminated against her when they laid her off from her position as a patrol deputy. ORS 659.425(1)(a), (c) provides:
In determining whether a discharge for a physical impairment constitutes an unlawful employment practice, we must consider whether the employe is actually prevented by the impairment from adequately performing the duties of the position and, if so, whether the employe could perform the duties of the position if the employer made reasonable accommodations. ORS 659.425(1)(a), (c).
In determining whether an employe is prevented due to an impairment from adequately performing work duties,
See also Quinn v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co., 76 Or.App. 617, 632, 711 P.2d 139 (1985), rev. den. 300 Or. 546, 715 P.2d 93 (1986). On the basis of the medical evidence, the degree of danger inherent in the deputy sheriff 103 position and plaintiff's statements, we find that, at the time plaintiff was laid off, there was a reasonable probability that plaintiff was unable to perform the patrol duties of the position without risk of injury to herself or others.
Plaintiff argues that, even if she cannot perform the patrol duties of a deputy sheriff 103, she can perform the duties involved in the other positions which require the 103 status and which rotate. She argues that allowing her to work in one of those positions or to rotate among all of them, without having to rotate into a patrol position, would be a reasonable accommodation by defendants.
ORS 625.425 imposes an affirmative duty on the employer to make "reasonable accommodation" for an employe's physical or mental impairment. However, the evidence demonstrates that plaintiff's suggested accommodation would not result in