Monday, April 30, 2007
Court Rejects Injured Firefighter’s Bid for Command
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The City of Los Angeles did not invidiously discriminate against a fire captain who lost a leg in the line of duty by assigning him to a training position rather than to command a fire station, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. One affirmed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Grimes’ ruling that Gregory Malais’ rights were not violated because the training position carries the same rank, pay, eligibility for overtime, and promotional opportunities as the command post. The March 29 opinion was certified Friday for publication.
Malais joined the LAFD in 1980 and was promoted to the rank of Captain II in 2000. In 2002, he was injured in a work-related accident, and as a result his right leg was amputated below the knee.
He returned to work in a light-duty capacity in April 2003. The following October, he returned to work as a full-time Captain II assigned to training.
Training is classified as a special duty, as opposed to platoon duty, assignment. Malais is one of 38 persons who hold the rank of Captain II and work at special duty, which generally means office-type work, with a regular 40-hour work week. Platoon duty, at the same rank, involves working in a fire station with 24-hour shifts.
As a matter of both policy and practice, captains working at special duty can be promoted to the next highest rank, which is Batallion Chief, and then to any of the higher ranks of the department. Malais, however, said he had no interest in a promotion, and only wanted to return to platoon duty, which he insisted he can perform with a prosthetic leg.
He also admitted that he had been offered, but had turned down, overtime opportunities that were available to him while on special duty.
The city said it would not assign a firefighter with a prosthetic leg to platoon duty because it believes that would be dangerous to the firefighter, his fellow firefighters, and the public. It also specifically denied that Malais is qualified to perform all of the duties that a Captain II would be expected to perform on platoon duty.
Grimes ruled that the assignment was not an adverse employment action, and thus did not violate the Fair Employment and Housing Act or public policy.
Justice Frances Rothschild, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed.
Loss of “the work, schedule, and camaraderie of platoon duty,” she concluded, is not equivalent to the loss of pay or promotional opportunities that have been held to constitute adverse employment actions. Nor did Malais claim that he was assigned to a hostile work environment, the justice added.
Attorneys on appeal were Knapp, Petersen & Clarke’s Andre E. Jardini and Gwen Freeman for the plaintiff and Deputy City Attorney Kim Rodgers Westhoff for the city.
The case is Malais v Los Angeles City Fire Department, B189575.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company