Baton Use is Essential Function of Correctional Officer’s Job

Bruce Furtado was a correctional lieutenant at the Centinela State Prison. He suffered horrible injuries in an off-duty car accident and took 8 months of leave to recover. Unfortunately, Furtado suffered permanent injuries to his left hand, arm and shoulder which rendered Furtado unable to pass a baton test which is a requirement for the job.

Correctional officers are peace officers and peace officers are required to pass a baton use test. Furtado, despite hours of additional training and multiple medical examinations and treatment, could never regain full use of his left arm and was unable to pass the baton test.

Ultimately, after a series of medical examinations, baton tests and training, and other efforts by the Department of Corrections to assist in finding another position, Furtado was medically demoted to a lower administrative position that did not require him to pass the baton test. Furtado appealed to the medical demotion to the California State Personnel Board where he lost.

Furtado filed a petition for writ of mandate with the superior court which was denied.

On appeal, the court held that being proficient with a baton is a reasonable requirement of the position of correction lieutenant and that it was clear that Furtado could not perform all of the essential functions of the job, with or without accommodation and the medical demotion here was proper.

The court here found that all correctional officers must be able to defend themselves and others in the event of emergencies and to be able to cover for others when there is a personnel shortage. This reasoning appears to be sound and is similar to the reasoning in the Liu v. City and County of San Francisco.

Furtado v. State Personnel Board, 2013 WL 64657, ____Cal.App.4th_____.

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