Coroner’s Employee Alleges Failure to Accommodate Health Concerns

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A Los Angeles County coroner’s office investigator whose liver disease recently progressed into cancer is suing the county, alleging he has been wrongfully denied transfers to less trying jobs to help him cope with his condition.

David Smith’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges failure to accommodate and to engage in the interactive process. He seeks unspecified damages.

A representative for the coroner’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Thursday.

Smith was hired by the office in 1997 and since 2000 has held the position of a supervising coroner investigator I, which is considered a rank of lieutenant, the suit states. Since 2014, he has been assigned as a watch commander, one of multiple different assignments held by department lieutenants, the suit states.

Smith’s multiple tasks include answering a high volume of calls, making assignments for investigators and managing departmental resources, according to the suit.

He was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease in May 2018 that limits his ability to work, so two years later he asked for a different assignment because the stress of his work was worsening his health and hampering his ability to go to work, the suit states.

“The department completely failed, however, to engage in any interactive process with plaintiff,” the suit alleges.

An alternative lieutenant assignment that Smith had previously requested as a reasonable accommodation given his health became vacant in May 2020, but the job was given instead to another candidate despite the department’s knowledge that Smith sought the position, the suit states.

Smith was again denied an accommodation for his condition in June 2020, according to the suit, which further alleges the department has “scheduled and failed to schedule lieutenant reassignments in such a way as to intentionally foreclose the potential of making plaintiff’s requested reasonable accommodation available to him.”

Apart from a brief six-month period from January to July of this year, when management temporarily accommodated Smith due to a doctor’s note, the department has otherwise failed to provide reasonable accommodation for Smith’s health up to the present, the suit states.

Smith, who was recently diagnosed with liver cancer, has suffered emotional distress and loss of income because he had to use leave time that he could have saved had the department accommodated him because of his health, the suit states.

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