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Social Worker Fired Over Death Of Gabriel Fernandez May Get His Job Back

LOS ANGELES ( — A Los Angeles County social worker who was fired in the wake of the 2013 beating death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez could be back on the job within a month, according to a report.

Fernandez's death prompted calls for sweeping reforms in the Los Angeles County foster-care system because child welfare workers failed to remove the boy from the home. Records showed that deputies were called to Gabriel's home five times in the months leading up to his death.

Two L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) social workers and two supervisors were terminated, while others involved in the case received letters of warning or reprimand.

But at least one of those supervisors could regain his position after a county civil service panel issued a proposed decision this week to reinstate Gregory Merritt, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The decision comes despite findings by DCFS director Philip Browning that Merritt missed multiple opportunities to ensure Fernandez's safety, The Times reported.

Browning told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO he still has reservations about Merritt returning to his former position.

"I'm concerned about any employee that doesn't live up to the expectations that we have," said Browning.

According to court records, Fernandez was doused with pepper spray, forced to eat his own vomit and locked in a cabinet with a sock stuffed in his mouth to muffle his screams before he was beaten to death by his own mother.

Gabriel's mother, 30-year-old Pearl Fernandez, and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, 34, have both pleaded not guilty to murder charges with special allegations of torture.

Browning believes the civil commission didn't have all the facts prior to making their decision.

"If they had, I believe they would have agreed with me," he said.

Officials have until April 27 to file an appeal before Merritt's reinstatement is finalized, The Times reported.

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