Scott Schwebke | San Gabriel Valley Grandstand

A judge ruled that the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Welfare discriminated against two social worker trainees by subjecting them to unlawful pre-employment psychological assessments and withdrawing internships and job offers based on assumptions about their mental health.

The plaintiffs, identified in court documents as Jane Doe and Mary Roe, alleged in a lawsuit filed last year that the county failed to engage in an “interactive process” to explore possible accommodations for them as required by federal law.

Plaintiffs seek unspecified damages. The settlement has not been finalized.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara Scheper denied the county’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and instead granted a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

Scheper’s decision was based on overwhelming evidence that the county made no effort to accommodate Jane Doe and Mary Roe, said their attorney, Sean Betouliere of Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based nonprofit.

“For years, the county has imposed the same standard work restrictions on any applicants it wishes to disqualify because of an actual or perceived mental disability,” Betouliere added. “The county staff acknowledged that after the imposition of this model restriction, no adjustments are considered, no adjustments are discussed, and the decision that no adjustments are possible is made prior to the county’s legally required ‘interactive processes’ meetings with applicants – which is a flagrant breach of its legal duty to consider possible improvements in good faith.”

DCFS officials declined to comment specifically on the lawsuit.

“The Department of Children and Family Services has nearly 9,000 employees who play a critical role in providing family and child-centred protection services in Los Angeles County,” the agency said in a statement. “The Department complies with the U.S. Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment Act to meet the needs of its employees.”

According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe and Mary Roe are high achievers in their Master of Social Work program at USC. They fully intended to spend their careers serving the county’s most vulnerable children and families, including those who, like themselves, have experienced s*xual abuse, assault and other serious trauma, Betouliere said.

While attending USC, the plaintiffs were selected for the federally funded DCFS interns program, which provides students with a $18,500 educational stipend for each year of study, supervised internship, and employment as a child social worker upon graduation.

In early 2020, midway through their freshman year, the plaintiffs successfully interviewed DCFS and were offered supervised internships, followed by permanent employment, according to the lawsuit.

“However, before any of the claimants could start work, each had to undergo a mandatory psychological evaluation, during which the county asked them about their previous mental health diagnoses, medications and treatment; their past experiences of s*xual abuse; and other topics that do not affect the plaintiff’s ability to perform future work,” the lawsuit reads.

The assessments, essentially the same as those used for police officers, are designed to identify and screen applicants with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. According to Betouliere, they are not managed by any other child protection agency in the United States.

As a result of the “unlawful and unnecessary” assessments, the county revoked Doe and Roe’s internship and job offers they had been working on for years, the lawsuit says.

The county also did not engage in bona fide talks to investigate housing for plaintiffs, Betouliere said.

In addition, the county allegedly refused to provide the plaintiff with copies of their psychological evaluations, information about the job duties they believed they were unable to perform, or the risks they allegedly posed.

Doe said she and Roe had repeatedly asked the county to clarify what his specific concerns were so they could try to address them. “The county could have easily addressed any concerns it had – especially since DCFS trainees are very closely supervised and cannot make any decisions about clients on their own – but made no effort to do so,” she said in a statement. .

Doe and Roe appealed the county’s decision and submitted reports from an independent psychologist confirming their ability to safely and effectively perform their duties, the lawsuit says. However, the appeal was unsuccessful, and the county maintained its refusal of internships and jobs.

Plaintiffs were unable to complete other internships because they were contractually bound to DCFS.

In a statement, the county’s appeal process was time-consuming and its promise to consider housing was false, Roe said.

#Judge #rules #DCFS #discrimination #case

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