A federal court jury has awarded $230,000 to Sacramento garbage collector Michael Asberry, finding that his 1999 termination violated federal and state laws protecting the employment rights of disabled persons.
The six jurors found last week that they city’s action ran afoul of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Asberry’s lawyer, Jill Telfer, will seek her fee from the city. If she and city attorneys cannot agree on a figure, Telfer will ask U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton to order reasonable compensation for her services.
Asberry, 44 developed back problems in the years after he was hired in 1992 by the city’s Solid Waste Division, precluding his lifting more than 40 pounds.
That restriction alone did not prevent him from operating a side loader garbage truck on residential routes. But when a treating physician expanded the restrictions to bending, stooping or sitting for long periods, Reina Schwartz and Edison Hicks, solid waste manager and superintendent, determined there were no jobs for which Asberry was qualified.
The additional restrictions were mistakenly included on a July 1999 medical progress report, but the city refused to acknowledge the information as erroneous, according to Telfer.
Instead she wrote in her trial brief, city officials “used this mistake to claim (Asberry) could not perform the essential functions of this job.”
He was laid off Sept. 8, 1999, but continued to insist that he could do the job, and that his only restriction was repetitive lifting over 40 pounds. He documented the mistake regarding other restrictions with a release from his physician that he presented to the city the day after he was let go according to Telfer.
Asberry was finally rehired March 22, 2000. He continues to work as a residential garbage collector, operating a side-loader.