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Officer Loses Cell Phone Claim To Qualified Immunity

In the public discussion about the principle of “qualified immunity” virtually no mention is made of the fact that qualified immunity bars many lawsuits by public employees alleging constitutional violations by their employers. A recent case out of Ohio provides a good illustration of how qualified immunity works in an employment context. The case involved Jeffrey Lazar, a Columbus police officer. His girlfriend was an officer in the same…

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The High Standard For PTSD Claims In Some States

A case involving Huntington Firefighter John Angle shows the difficulty of establishing a PTSD workers’ compensation claim in a state with a “physical injury” statute such as West Virginia. Several states have workers’ compensation laws similar to Section 23-4 of the West Virginia Code, which provides that “no alleged injury or disease shall be recognized as a compensable injury or disease which was solely caused by nonphysical means and…

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Disabled Corrections Officer Unable To Perform Essential Job Functions

Stephen Mannan worked as a corrections officer for the Colorado Department of Corrections. In January 2017, Mannan experienced chronic hip pain and was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and told he would need a hip replacement. As Mannan was morbidly obese, his doctor advised him to lose approximately 50 pounds before surgery. In February 2017, Mannan took FMLA leave with the aim to have surgery in March or April. Instead, in…

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Officer Required To Sit In Dark Building Loses Retaliation Case

Officer Michael Fiocca was assigned to work in the Philadelphia Police Department Forensic Science Unit (FSU). Starting in 2015 or 2016, Fiocca and the other officers in the FSU gained access to the daily attendance records sheets (DARS) of all officers in the FSU. Fiocca’s access to DARS enabled him to see the vacation and sick balances, as well as the amount of overtime worked for every officer in…

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EMT Forfeits Job By Failing To Appear For Retraining

After being injured while on duty as an EMT for the Borough of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey in 2010, and following two surgeries on his knee, Jasen Mitchell reached the maximum level of rehabilitation before being medically cleared for modified duty. The physical restrictions placed on Mitchell made it impossible for him to perform the duties of an EMT. The Borough offered him a newly created position as a…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Opinion Reinstating Corrections Officer

Andrew Ruffner began his employment as a corrections officer trainee at the Allegheny County Jail in May 2016. As part of the corrections officer trainee program, Ruffner received mandatory training in CPR and First Aid skills. Ruffner became a full-time corrections officer in April 2017 and was represented by the Allegheny County Prison Employees Independent Union. As a relatively new corrections officer, Ruffner was a “floater,” meaning that he…

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Whistleblowing, Sleeping Corrections Officers, And Retaliation

Alberto Limon, a former corrections officer employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), photographed fellow officers sleeping on duty, including some supervisors, some even with pillows. After Limon reported these officers to his supervisor, Captain Jose Badilla, a rat trap was placed on Limon’s seat; his name was scratched off his CDCR mailbox; and supervisors forced Limon to work several days in uniform, but without a…

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Four Months Of Propositions Enough For Sexual Harassment Claim

Janie Myles was a 23-year veteran of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office when Victor Mason became sheriff. Myles later filed a lawsuit claiming that Mason subjected her to sexual harassment, discriminated against her based on race and sex, and ultimately fired her in retaliation for testifying against him in another woman’s sexual harassment suit. According to Myles, the discriminatory conduct began in June 2016, and included sexually explicit text…

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Fire Department Social Media Policy Could Be ‘Overbroad’

AJ O’Laughlin and Crystal Little are firefighters with the Palm Beach County Fire and Rescue Department in Florida. On February 6, 2019, O’Laughlin made Facebook posts on an invite-only Facebook page he maintained while campaigning for the presidency of Local 2928 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The posts concerned alleged attempted misuse of a Union Time Pool (UTP) in November and December of 2018 by the union’s…

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Whether Bargaining Should Be In Public Is Not Mandatory For Bargaining

Some public employers are adopting resolutions requiring collective bargaining to be conducted in public. Unions often push back on these resolutions, believing private collective bargaining to be more effective in the give-and-take process for resolving differences. Washington’s Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) recently had to address what happens when the parties are unable to agree as to whether negotiations should be in public. Teamsters Local 690 represents two bargaining…

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Q & A

From New Jersey:Question: Can an employer mandate COVID-19 testing twice a week for some of its employees? And can they take a person’s saliva? Is this legal? Couldn’t they then mandate testing for other illnesses and take a person’s blood for testing? And what about a mandate that employees get the vaccine? I understand taking a person’s temperature because it does not involve taking a person’s bodily fluid. Answer:…

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Due Process Violated When New Charges Added After Hearing

Adam Procell is a sergeant with the Baker, Louisiana Police Department. When Procell and another officer responded to an alarm at a Baker charter school, they found an open door but no signs of criminal activity. As they were exiting the building, they heard approximately ten gunshots appearing to come from a distance of roughly 50 yards. Upon requesting backup, Procell was informed that a window had been shot…

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Houston District Fire Chief Loses Social Media Case

Steven Dunbar, a District Chief for the Houston Fire Department (HFD), made a post in a private social media group for HFD firefighters in July 2019. Discussing a transfer opportunity HFD had posted the month before, he wrote: “If you are thinking about putting in for a spot in District 64 on C-shift you better have your sh** together. Wanna play games like previously-assigned members? You will be miserable…promise.”…

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No Due Process Right To ‘Retired Officer Handgun License’

Joseph Oquendo was a detective with the NYPD. Before he retired, Oquendo was arrested and charged with DWI. While the criminal charges were pending, NYPD denied Oquendo’s anticipatory application for a retired police officer handgun license. Had one been issued, Oquendo could have legally possessed a concealed handgun within New York City. Though a jury acquitted Oquendo of the criminal charges, NYPD opened an internal investigation into the circumstances…

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Federal Court Upholds Facebook Discipline

Ariel Lindsay has been a Cook County, Illinois deputy sheriff since2004, and was assigned to the Court Services Unit in the Criminal Courts Building in Chicago. From July 6, 2016, through July 8, 2016, Lindsay made several posts to her Facebook account. Those posts referenced the July 2016 shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas, and the public sentiment towards law enforcement officers. When she made her posts, Lindsay…

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Firefighter Fails To Show Cancer Caused By Job

James Crowley is a firefighter with the Superstition Fire and Medical District in Arizona. Over the course of his 20-year career, Crowley was exposed to diesel exhaust fumes daily. In addition, while on fire calls he was exposed to the smoke and fumes of burning plastics, chemicals, paints, stains, glues, wood, and other miscellaneous substances. In October 2017, Crowley was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he filed a worker’s…

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Corrections Officer Terminated For Dishonesty, Not Disability

Brad Sandefur was a corrections officer for the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois. He suffers from disk desiccation in his spine and osteoarthritis in his knees. Both conditions can cause intermittent pain for weeks at a time. In 2011, Sandefur applied for and received a handicapped parking placard from the Illinois Secretary of State. His application identified his qualifying disability as osteoarthritis or a “knee condition.” The application asserted…

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Reinstatement Ordered For Firefighter Terminated For ‘Moral Character’

To become a City of Plainfield firefighter in New Jersey, applicants are required to prove residency. Christopher D’Amico submitted several documents supporting his Plainfield residency, including a roller hockey alliance insurance card. D’Amico modified the card to include his actual residential address in Plainfield. According to D’Amico, he revised the card because he did not have additional proof of residency when he was asked for further documentation as part…

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No Cause To Reopen Officer’s Retirement Case

Alonzo Herran was employed as a City of Newark police officer for 15 years. His tenure was marked by multiple violations of the Newark Police Department’s rules and regulations and the rules of the Civil Service Commission. In 2012, the City filed disciplinary charges against Herran for allegedly striking a civilian with the butt of his gun while off duty and lying to superiors about his actions. In July…

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Deputy’s On-Call Time Not Compensable Under FLSA

Joseph Caiazza was a deputy sheriff with the Lee County, Florida Sheriff’s Department. Before his retirement, Caiazza worked on Captiva and Sanibel Islands (the “Islands”). The Islands had only one other patrol officer, along with a supervisor who had mostly administrative duties. Every 14 days, the Sheriff scheduled Caiazza for seven 12-hour shifts of active patrol, each followed by a 12-hour on-call period. One day every week, Caiazza was…

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Terminated Officer’s Lawsuit Against Union Lawyer Fails

The Illinois Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by a terminated officer against his union’s lawyer. The Court’s opinion turned on several fundamental principles of legal ethics. The officer, Russell Zander of the Village of Fox Lake, was terminated for various acts of on-the-job misconduct. Zander’s labor organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, assigned Roy Carlson, one of its staff attorneys, to represent Zander. Under Illinois law, a…

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Bargaining Obligation Prevails Over Wage Recoupment Statute

On November 1, 2016, an audit at a county in Washington uncovered an accounting software error had caused Benton County Sheriff’s Office employees, including 85 corrections officers, to be overpaid from June 2016 through September 2016. Benton County Auditor Brenda Chilton sent Sheriff Steven Keane a memo that notified him of the error. The memo explained how the error occurred and that the County had the right under a…

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Q & A

From Illinois:Question: We are updating our tattoo policy and I have been researching any cases that address covering of off-duty tattoos that are offensive, due to being gang-related, sexually suggestive, vulgar, advocate racial, ethnic, religious or sexual hatred or discrimination. This would be for officers that clearly are a representative of a police department (i.e., a subject cutting his grass shirtless, off duty, with a squad car in the…

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Disability Retirement Precludes Civil Service Appeal Of Discharge

Martin Deiro began working for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 1997 and was injured on duty in May 2012. He continued to work though October 2013, after which he had the first of two surgeries for the injury. He could not return to work after his first surgery and remained on leave. On May 1, 2015, Deiro applied to the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA)…

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Qualified Immunity Bars Dispatcher’s Second Amendment Claim

Keli Calderone is a police communications operator at the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications. On July 19, 2017, Calderone was off duty and in her personal car. While idling alongside Calderone at a red light, motorist Selene Garcia threw a drink into Calderone’s vehicle and then pulled to the side of the road. Calderone followed Garcia and stopped right behind Garcia’s car. Calderone and Garcia…

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