As a Denver police officer for more than nine years, Jack Davoll risked his life every day enforcing the law and protecting citizens. But when he received back injuries after his patrol car was struck broadside, it became difficult for him to patrol the streets for long periods of time. He was warned by the Citys doctors that he risked paralysis if he were to engage in any physical altercations. Although he could no longer walk the beat, he was qualified for several vacant civilian jobs elsewhere in the City. So, as a reasonable accommodation, he asked for reassignment to those jobs. But the City refused, claiming that its Charter barred transfers of police officers to civilian jobs, and forced him to retire instead.
For years, police officers had no choice but to retire if they became disabled - even if they were able, eligible, and willing to fill available jobs elsewhere in the City. The financial toll for these officers was great: disability pensions were often less than half their former salaries and officers on disability were required to pay for their own health insurance.
Just before he retired, Mr. Davoll filed a complaint with the Justice Department, triggering an investigation that led the Department to sue under the ADA alleging that Denver's policy resulted in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities. On November 13, 1996, a jury in U.S. District Court found that Denver had violated the ADA by not reassigning Mr. Davoll to other available jobs and awarded him $300,000 in compensatory damages. He was also awarded more than $225,000 in lost wages.
This month, the Department of Justice reached an extensive agreement with Denver, in which the City agreed to implement a written policy allowing officers with disabilities to be reassigned to civilian vacancies for which they are qualified; not to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities including police officers, and to pay $1,500,000 in back pay to eleven other officers who had been forced to retire rather than continue working in other jobs.
Mr. Davoll said "My hope from the start of the case was that officers injured in the line of duty would be able to continue working to provide an income for their family. Thanks to the ADA ... this case has and will continue to help injured workers."
Now, police officers with disabilities in Denver who want to work and can work will be able to do so.