Formerly Disabled Officer Loses Claim For Reinstatement

Mia Facella worked for the City of Newton, Massachusetts Police Department from 1975 to 1981. In 1981, she received an accidental disability pension for injuries sustained on the job.

In 1998, Facella requested that the City’s Retirement Board convene a medical panel to review her application to return to active duty. The City eventually returned Facella to duty, placed her in a temporary job, and required her to complete a retraining program at either a basic police academy or the recently-modified police academy set up by the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council.

Facella initially did well at the police academy, but 14 weeks into the program had to drop out because of a series of severe headaches and hypertension. Facella then sued the City, alleged that it had an obligation to take her back to work without regard to whether or not she completed the recruit academy.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals disagreed with Facella. The Court found that “Facella’s right to reinstatement and full employment could not attach unless and until she completed her retraining program. Since she never completed it, she never fulfilled the condition precedent to be legally reinstated, and therefore was never subject to the protection typically afforded to a tenured civil service employee.”

The Court was clearly troubled by the length of time Facella had been off work. The Court observed that to reach a contrary decision “would be to condone the return to the payroll of a police department, with full pay and benefits, officers who could not perform the complete range of duties. The fact that Facella has been separated from a position as a police officer for nearly two decades only increases the likelihood that she would not be able to perform the complete range of duties.”

Facella v. City of Newton, 868 N.E.2d 658 (Mass.App. 2007).

This article appears in the August 2007 issue