LORETTA E. LYNCH, Attorney General of the United States
VANITA GUPTA, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
EVE L. HILL, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
REBECCA B. BOND, Chief
SHEILA M. FORAN, Special Legal Counsel
KEVIN J. KIJEWSKI, Deputy Chief
ALYSE S. BASS, Senior Trial Attorney
Disability Rights Section
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. - NYA
Washington, DC 20530

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff,

v.

COUNTY OF RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA,

Defendant.

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DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
CIVIL ACTION NO.

COMPLAINT

  1. This action is brought by the United States against the County of Riverside, California (“Defendant County”), to enforce Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-17, which incorporates through 42 U.S.C. § 12117, the powers, remedies, and procedures set forth in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, and Title I’s implementing regulation, 29 C.F.R. § 1630.
  2. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  3. This Court has jurisdiction of this action under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345. This Court has authority to grant a declaratory judgment pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, and authority to grant equitable relief and monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 12117.
  4. Venue is appropriate pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because the Defendant County is located in the Central District of California and a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred in Central District of California.
  5. PARTIES

  6. Plaintiff is the United States of America.
  7. Defendant County of Riverside is a public body, corporate and politic, created under the laws of the State of California.
  8. Defendant County is a person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12111(7) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (a).
  9. Defendant County is an employer within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111(5) and 2000e (b), and a covered entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12111(2).
  10. FACTS

  11. Brent Knigge is an individual with a disability within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12102 because Mr. Knigge has epilepsy, a seizure disorder.  His epilepsy substantially limits one or more major life activities, including the operation of his neurological system, a major bodily function.  In addition, Mr. Knigge is covered by the ADA because Defendant County regarded him as having a disability within the meaning of the ADA and in violation of  42 U.S.C. § 12102.
  12. Mr. Knigge applied for a position with Defendant County as a Probation Corrections Officer I (“PCO I”).
  13. Mr. Knigge is a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8).  At the time of his application to Defendant County and at all times thereafter, Mr. Knigge could and can perform the essential functions of a PCO I with or without reasonable accommodation.
  14. Mr. Knigge passed all required examinations necessary to qualify for the PCO I position.  Additionally, he had a regular Class C California driver’s license – a requirement listed under “other requirements” on the PCO I job description. 
  15. Mr. Knigge has been seizure-free since 2000, more than ten years before his application to the County. 
  16. The County extended to Mr. Knigge an offer of employment that was contingent upon successful completion of Defendant County’s Medical Examination.
  17. Subsequent to receiving the offer, Mr. Knigge underwent a pre-placement/post-offer medical examination, during which he advised Defendant County’s occupational health physician about his seizure disorder, explaining that he took prescription medication (Trileptal) and had been seizure-free for over ten years.  
  18. Mr. Knigge provided Defendant County’s physician with a letter from his neurologist setting forth the dates of his seizures, all of which occurred more than 10 years prior, and listing prescription medications.  The neurologist’s letter concluded that Mr. Knigge’s prognosis is “excellent,” and advised that Mr. Knigge has three minor limitations, none of which bears on his ability to perform the essential job functions for the PCO I position.  His neurologist found that he was able to do all of the essential functions of the job of PCO I.
  19. Based upon the erroneous views of its occupational health physician -- including his assumption that the PCO I job required a Commercial Drivers license -- Defendant County subsequently withdrew Mr. Knigge’s job offer.  In its letter revoking his job offer, the Defendant County advised Mr. Knigge that “our review of your medical records indicates your neurological disorder would interfere with performing the required job duties; therefore, you have been medically disqualified for the position of Probation Corrections Officer I.”
  20. Mr. Knigge timely filed his charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on December 27, 2011, alleging that he had been discriminated against in employment on the basis of his disability by Defendant County. 
  21. On June 27, 2013, the EEOC issued a Letter of Determination finding that there was reasonable cause to believe that the allegations of discrimination on the basis of disability were true.
  22. On April 2, 2014, the EEOC determined that efforts to conciliate were unsuccessful and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.
  23. All conditions precedent to the filing of this suit have occurred.
  24. Cause of Action

  25. The foregoing paragraphs are incorporated herein.
  26. Defendant County’s conduct as described in this Complaint constitutes discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of Title I of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12111-17, and its implementing regulation, 29 C.F.R. § 1630, and Defendant County discriminated against Mr. Knigge in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a) and 29 C.F.R. § 1630.4 by denying employment to Mr. Knigge for the position of PCO I on the basis of his disability, epilepsy.

Prayer for Relief

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff United States prays that the Court grant the following relief:

  1. Grant judgment in favor of the United States and declare that Defendant County has violated Title I of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-17, and its implementing regulation, 29 C.F.R. § 1630.
  2. Enjoin Defendant County from discriminating against qualified individuals with seizure disorders in regard to job application procedures, hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment;
  3. Enjoin Defendant County and its agents, employees, and successors from engaging in discriminatory employment policies and practices against employees based on disability;
  4. Provide sufficient remedial relief to make whole the charging party, Brent Knigge, for the individual loss suffered as a result of the discrimination against him as alleged in this Complaint, including the extension of an offer of the PCO I position with retroactive seniority, payment of back pay with interest, pension and related benefits; and other appropriate nondiscriminatory measures to overcome the effects of the discrimination;
  5. Award compensatory damages to Brent Knigge, in an appropriate amount for injuries suffered as the result of Defendant County's failure to comply with the requirements of Title I of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112 (a) and 29 C.F.R. § 1630.4;
  6. Require Defendant County to modify its policies, practices, and procedures as necessary to bring its employment practices into compliance with Title I of the ADA, and the accompanying regulations, including ensuring that all hiring decisions are based on a candidate's ability to perform the essential functions of the position, and that decisions are not made based on myths, fears or stereotypes;
  7. Require Defendant County to provide training on Title I of the ADA to all employees who conduct medical examinations or participate in making personnel decisions; and,
  8. Award such other additional relief as justice may require.

Respectfully submitted this          day of                             , 2015.

LORETTA E. LYNCH, Attorney General of the United States

______________________
VANITA GUPTA
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
EVE L. HILL, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

 

/s/ Alyse S. Bass
REBECCA B. BOND, Chief
SHEILA M. FORAN, Special Legal Counsel
KEVIN J. KIJEWSKI, Deputy Chief
ALYSE S. BASS, Senior Trial Attorney
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. - NYA
Washington, DC 20530
Telephone: (202) 307-0663
Facsimile: (202) 305-9775
Email: alyse.bass@usdoj.gov

 

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