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Deputy Wins $885k In Disability, Hostile Work Environment Case

Joseph Iko, who has been diagnosed with Type I diabetes since he was six years old, worked for the Sheriff’s Department in Middlesex County, New Jersey. In 2004, Iko underwent a pancreas transplant because of his diabetes. When Iko returned to work after the transplant, his high-level supervisors and coworkers began harassing him by regularly calling him names such as “Half-Dead,” “Mr. Magoo,” “Stevie Wonder,” “Jerry’s Kids,” “Chinaman,” and…

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Disability Pension Subject To Division In Divorce

Adrian and Brooke Aurs were married in July 2007. At all times during the parties’ marriage, Adrian was employed as a police officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and was a member of the 1977 Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension and Disability Fund (1977 Fund). Brooke filed for divorce in November 2015. Adrian was placed on unpaid suspension starting July 30, 2016, following a violent incident at…

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Court Finds Brain Injury Is Not Physical Incapacitation

While he was on duty on August 12, 2014, Baltimore Police Officer Carlos Couret-Rios was in a car that was rear-ended. His head snapped forward and back and he briefly lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness and got out of the car, he experienced severe vertigo. A physician diagnosed him with post-concussion syndrome and prescribed vestibular therapy to improve his balance and reduce the problems related to dizziness. While…

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Ability To Work Light Duty Ends Disability Claim

The Illinois Pension Code defines a disability as “a condition of physical or mental incapacity to perform any assigned duty or duties in the police service.” A recent case involving the Chicago Police Department showed how the availability of light-duty work can impact an officer’s disability status. The case involved Ryan O’Donnell, who broke his right clavicle in 2006 while training at the police academy and was subsequently awarded…

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Stuttering Corrections Officer Wins $500k Disability Discrimination Claim

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides state remedies similar to those available under a variety of federal discrimination laws. One provision in FEHA bars disability discrimination. Augustine Caldera is a correctional officer at a state prison. Caldera stutters when he speaks. The prison’s employees mocked or mimicked Caldera’s stutter at least a dozen times over a period of about two years. Sergeant James Grove, a supervisor, participated…

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Bias And Disability Hearing Boards

Sara Naden is a lieutenant with the Sugar Grove, Illinois Fire Protection District. Naden testified that during her career, she was subjected to intense criticism, ridicule, and sexual harassment by her male coworkers – both her subordinates and her superiors. According to Naden, she had “crying spells” and “anxiety attacks” at work, and she “continually felt sick to her stomach.” On March 10, 2014, Naden sought treatment from her…

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Training Exercise Not ‘Emergency’ For Purposes Of Post-Disability Health Insurance Law

Steven Garris was a fire lieutenant with the Village of Lake Zurich in Illinois. On March 1, 2012, Garris participated in an exercise called “Personal Escape Bags Inservice.” The exercise involved the use of rappelling equipment designed to assist firefighters escaping from buildings. While performing the exercise, Garris sustained a broken ankle. Garris’s injury was caused by “his weight acting as force against the injured extremity while rappelling.” Garris…

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Threats Made By Family Of Suspect Shot By Officer Do Not Amount To ‘Extraordinary Stress’

Linda Burt-Redding worked as a patrol officer in the Grand Chute, Wisconsin Police Department. On August 29, 2002, and while in the line of duty, she shot an individual who belonged to a street gang, was threatening motorists, and was wielding a knife. Following the shooting, Burt-Redding received threats which fell into three categories: (1) Threats made directly to Burt-Redding; (2) threats made directly to her son; and (3)…

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Detective Not Required To Have Surgery

Patrizia Prew, who held the rank of detective after more than 15 years of service in the Providence Police Department, injured her right hand and wrist as she attempted to detain a juvenile following a disturbance outside his school. Thereafter, her status was “injured on duty,” and her doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic carpal tunnel syndrome. Her physician recommended surgery, but, due to a fear of surgical complications, Prew…

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The EEOC, The ADA, And Leave

On May 9, 2016, the EEOC published a “document seeking to provide general information to employers and employees regarding when and how leave must be granted for reasons related to an employee’s disability.” The document largely restates existing law, but in some respects calls for a reexamination of the leave policies in public safety agencies. To begin with, the EEOC has reiterated its somewhat unusual position on requirements for…

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Anxiety Disorder Disqualifies Police Officer From Job

Jason Jordan was hired as a police officer by the City of Union City, Georgia in 2012. Early in Jordan’s training rotation, his supervisors became concerned about his lack of engagement in tactical situations. During a debriefing after one such situation, Jordan explained that his feelings were consistent with anxiety “episodes” or “attacks” that he had had in the past. The City immediately relieved Jordan of duty. The next…

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Disability Benefits For Retired Firefighters Can Be Tied To Wage Reductions

A group of disabled firefighters sued the City of Newburgh, New York, claiming the City had unlawfully reduced their disability benefits. The firefighters receive “performance-of-duty disability retirement allowances” from the New York State Retirement System as well as supplemental benefits from the City in the amount of the “difference between the amounts received under their allowances and the amount of their regular salary or wages.” On January 10, 2011,…

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On-Duty Sexual Assault Not An ‘Accidental Disability’

Yessenia Montalvo was a member of the Newark, New Jersey Police Department for 13 years. When she was on duty on August 23, 2009, she went to Newark Municipal Court to obtain a warrant for one of her active investigations. After obtaining the warrant, she went to the apartment of Louis Weber, a fellow Newark police officer, to return a pair of karate pants that she had mended for…

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On-Duty Sexual Assault Not An ‘Accidental Disability’

Yessenia Montalvo was a member of the Newark, New Jersey Police Department for 13 years. When she was on duty on August 23, 2009, she went to Newark Municipal Court to obtain a warrant for one of her active investigations. After obtaining the warrant, she went to the apartment of Louis Weber, a fellow Newark police officer, to return a pair of karate pants that she had mended for…

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Heart Disability Presumed To Be Job-Related

For most of his 17-year career as a Westchester County, New York Department of Corrections officer, Kenneth Park worked in what a court described as “an old jail building that was poorly ventilated and contained an abundance of mold, mildew and other contaminants.” When Park was diagnosed with serious respiratory and heart conditions, he filed for disability benefits under New York’s Retirement and Social Security Law. When the New…

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Permanently Disabled Corrections Officer Denied ‘Accidental Disability’ Benefits

Bruce VanMeter was employed by the New Jersey Department of Corrections as a senior corrections officer and was a member of the Public Employees Retirement System. His duties included responding to “Code 33” emergency calls, which required him to run to the scene of the alert. While running to a Code 33 call in December 2010, VanMeter tore the meniscus in his knee. VanMeter underwent surgery, and his doctors…

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Officer Loses Duty Disability Claim By Trying To Bench Press Too Much

In 2011, Michael Shafer, who was then employed by the Village of Lake in the Hills, Illinois as a police officer, participated in physical fitness testing specified in the collective bargaining agreement between the Village and the Metropolitan Alliance of Police. The contract awarded officers additional compensatory time off based on their performance on a test involving sit-ups, sit-and-reach, bench press, and a 1.5-mile run. Each test is pass/fail….

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Trooper’s Disability Benefits Do Not Stop With Criminal Conviction

Douglas Merino joined the Washington State Patrol (WSP) in 1978 and served as a trooper until October 11, 1988, when he suffered a herniated disc and injuries to his left neck and left shoulder after being ejected from a patrol vehicle while on duty. As a result of these injuries, Merino was unable to meet the physical requirements for his WSP trooper position and went without pay from 1989…

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The Tough Standard For ‘Accidental’ Disabilities

New York is one of several states that provides an enhanced pension if a public safety employee suffers from an “accidental disability.” A recent case illustrates that the burden of proving that a disability was incurred “accidentally” is a high one. Vinicio Del Salto, a police officer, responded to a report of a woman attempting to cash a fraudulent check at a bank. Upon observing an individual matching the…

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Indefinite Leave Not A ‘Reasonable’ Accommodation

Under both the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, an employer has the obligation to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability. From time to time, questions have arisen as to the circumstances under which a medical leave of absence is a reasonable accommodation that must be granted by an employer. A recent case from Kentucky involved Erno Nandori, a police officer with the City of Bridgeport….

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Heart-Lung Presumption Applies To Diseases With No Known Cause

Since 1990, Scott Crane has worked as a firefighter for Snohomish County, Washington Fire District #1. On December 12, 2007, Crane awoke with chest pain. When the pain did not subside, Crane and his wife decided he should go to the emergency room. Doctors diagnosed him with bilateral pulmonary emboli. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot that obstructs arteries in the lungs. Crane spent two days in the…

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Court Rules That Seeing Suspect Killed Is ‘Normal’ For Police

Under New York law as well as the law in several other states, for a stress disability to be covered by workers’ compensation, the stress experienced by the employee must be greater than that which usually occurs in the normal work environment. A recent case involving the East Greenbush, New York, Police Department demonstrated how that legal standard effectively precludes most stress claims by law enforcement officers. The case…

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Officer’s Ability To Perform As Public Affairs Officer Does Not Invalidate Disability Status

Perry Beckley was a California Highway Patrol officer. In 2003, he sought treatment for wrist and arm pain, which he believed were the result of processing an unusually large number of reports at work. Later in 2003, Beckley reported that he had hurt his back getting out of his state vehicle. While he was assigned to patrol duty later that year, he had flare-ups of his back condition, was…

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How The ‘World Trade Center Presumption’ Works

In the wake of the World Trade Center disaster, the City of New York amended its administrative code to create what is known as the “WTC presumption.” Under the Code, there is a presumption that “any condition or impairment of health caused by a qualifying WTC condition shall be presumptive evidence that it was incurred in the performance and discharge of duty and the natural and proximate result of…

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Police Department Can Insist That Officers In Administrative Assignments Be Able To Make Forcible Arrests

On December 5, 2005, San Francisco Police Officer Kenneth Lui suffered a heart attack and had five stents inserted. He was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease. Following his heart attack, Lui took 11 months’ disability leave at full pay. On November 1, 2006, Lui returned to work in a 365-day temporary modified duty assignment performing light-duty work in the records room. After…

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