Sergeant Loses ADA Lawsuit Against Sheriff’s Office

Randal Fornes was a sergeant with the Osceola County, Florida Sheriff’s Department. Fornes brought a lawsuit against the County, alleging that it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in its treatment of him.

In order to be covered by the ADA, an employee must show that (1) he or she has a disability, (2) he or she is a “qualified individual,” that is, able to perform the essential functions of the employment position with or without reasonable accommodation, and (3) that the employer unlawfully discriminated against the employee because of the disability.

The federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that Fornes could not meet the second of these three tests, and dismissed his lawsuit. The Court pointed to a medical evaluation that Fornes could not perform tasks such as standing for a prolonged period of time, heavy lifting, and running. The County’s job descriptions – very significant under the ADA in determining the essential functions of an employee’s job – described all of these functions as “extremely important.”

Because Fornes was unable to establish that he could perform these essential function of a sergeant’s job even with reasonable accommodation, the Court found that he was not protected by the ADA.

Fornes v. Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, 2006 WL 1208050 (11th Cir. 2006).

This article appears in the December 2006 issue