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Employer Allowed To Reduce Firefighter Disability Supplement

In 2011, the City of Newburgh, New York entered into a new collective bargaining agreement with active firefighters. The agreement called for a 5% salary reduction for the period from January 14, 2011, and June 30, 2013, a reduction that was applicable to all “bargaining unit members except as otherwise required by law.” When the wage reduction went into effect, the City also reduced the amount of supplemental pay…

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In Some States, Physical Injury Required For PTSD Claims

The workers’ compensation or pension systems of different states have a variety of standards for evaluating claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of the strictest standards requires a firefighter or law enforcement officer to prove not just that they have PTSD which has been caused by the job, but that the PTSD arose alongside of a “physical injury.” Oklahoma follows this strict standard, and as City of Norman…

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Disability Termination Requires Due Process

John Turner was employed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety as a sworn, full-time highway patrol officer. In October 2008, Turner’s personal psychologist contacted the Department and advised that Turner be temporarily relieved from duty so that he could be treated for psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia, which was causing him to see demons in traffic violators. The Department promptly relieved Turner from duty and placed him on paid…

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Lying In Application Process Does Not Prevent Later Disability Retirement

After serving for 26 years with the New York City Police Department and for brief stints with the U.S. Mint Police and the U.S. Federal Protective Service, Joseph O’Rourke joined the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department in 2001. He was then 52 years old. O’Rourke was assigned to the Third District, where he served for the next several years as a patrol officer. In July 2007, O’Rourke sustained…

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‘Yellow Bar Teasing’ Not Traumatic Enough For Trooper’s Disability Claim

Michael Buccilli became a member of the New Jersey State Police in March 2002. On April 19, 2005, Buccilli went to the State Police shooting range to complete firearms qualification. Buccilli arrived in his Class B uniform, on which he had sewn a yellow bar that was only to be worn on his Class A uniform. At the time, Buccilli was not aware that the yellow bar was not…

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No Obligation To Offer Light-Duty Job To Pregnant Officer

Geralyn Larsen is a patrol officer for the Township of Branchburg, New Jersey. In June 2001, the Department eliminated its light-duty work policy. On December 9, 2002, Larsen learned from her fertility specialist that she was pregnant. The doctor gave her a note confirming her pregnancy and restricting her to light duty. Citing its policy of not having light-duty jobs, the Department declined to make available a light-duty job…

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Detention Deputy Loses ADHD Disability Claim

James Johnson was a detention deputy for the Sedgwick County, Kansas Sheriff’s Department. When the County terminated him for repeatedly falling asleep at work, he filed a lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), contending that he was illegally fired for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A federal court trial judge rejected Johnson’s lawsuit, finding he had failed to establish that he had a “disability” as defined by…

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City’s Own Decision Proves Police Chief Is Disabled

Garrett Zimmon was the Police Chief of San Bernardino, California. Zimmon described the City as “a very dynamic city, with high crime, and a lot of challenges.” Zimmon explained a variety of the challenges that he faced while working as the Chief of Police. The same day Zimmon was sworn in, the vice president of the Peace Officers Association was in an officer-involved shooting. Also on that day, Zimmon…

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High Threshold For Stress Claims Illustrated By South Carolina Case

Raquel Martinez was employed as a master deputy forensic investigator with the Spartanburg County, South Carolina Sheriff’s Office. On April 4, 2005, Martinez was called to perform a forensic accident investigation involving an incident where Anthony Johnson, a Greenville County deputy sheriff and a former officer with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office, accidentally killed his two-year-old daughter while backing his patrol car out of his driveway. As part of…

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Detention Deputy Loses ADHD Disability Claim

James Johnson was a detention deputy for the Sedgwick County, Kansas Sheriff’s Department. When the County terminated him for repeatedly falling asleep at work, he filed a lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), contending that he was illegally fired for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A federal court trial judge rejected Johnson’s lawsuit, finding he had failed to establish that he had a “disability” as defined by…

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Court Overturns Equal Rights Commission, Finds No Discrimination Against Lieutenant With Parkinson’s Disease

Lieutenant Miguel Hervis has been serving as a police officer with the City of Miami, Florida since 1988. He is currently a Commander in the Domestic Violence Unit. In 2004, Hervis was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and shortly thereafter, symptoms of his condition became evident to his coworkers and superiors, including Chief John Timoney. Although Timoney realized that Hervis’ motor skills were impaired, he did not know that Hervis…

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Officer Has No Right To Be Exempt From TASER Exposure

Ray Robert began working with the Hamilton County, Indiana Sheriff’s Department in 1979 as a merit deputy police officer. Beginning in 2003, Robert suffered from neck/back pain for which he underwent surgery in November 2004. He returned to work eight weeks later. Despite his back problems, Robert was able to perform the duties, trainings, and other essential functions of being a police officer without accommodation. In 2007, Robert retired…

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Officer Wins $1.5 Million In Disability Lawsuit Against LAPD

Rory Cuiellette is a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. After several years on the job, Cuiellette was injured and placed on disability leave. After his workers’ compensation claim resolved with a finding of 100% disability, the City accepted his request to return to work in May 2003. He worked less than five days before the City realized that he was “100% disabled” and, on that basis,…

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Placement On Unpaid Leave Is Disciplinary Action For Purposes Of Bill Of Rights

Under California’s Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, employers must follow a number of procedures when imposing disciplinary action. Those rights include granting an officer the right to a hearing to challenge the employer’s action. The California Court of Appeals recently addressed whether the Bill of Rights applied when an employer places an officer on unpaid leave. The case involved Beatrice Sanchez, who worked for Riverside County…

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New ADAAA Regs: The Untold Story

As most people in the Human Resources and employment law worlds are aware, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued its final rule interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). The ADAAA, which took effect in January 2009, was enacted toward the end of the administration of George W. Bush, with the support of disability rights advocates as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and…

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Because Lieutenant Voluntarily Retired, He Loses Disability Claim For Collapsed-Chair Injury

Donald Balint was a corrections lieutenant at the Coxsackie, New York Correctional Facility. Balint sustained work-related injuries when a chair in which he was sitting collapsed. He performed his regular duties for well over a year following the accident, but felt that he could no longer do his work properly, retired and sought post-retirement benefits. Before he retired, Balint filed a claim for duty-related disability arising out of his…

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Pennsylvania’s Heart And Lung Act Does Not Apply To Volunteer Firefighters

A Pennsylvania statute known as the Heart and Lung Act calls for the continuation of full salary and benefits when members of fire departments and law enforcement agencies are injured while in the line of duty. When Joseph Soppick, a volunteer firefighter for the George Clay Fire Company, was injured in the line of duty, he sought not only benefits under Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act, but also under the…

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Infant With Throat Cut Not ‘Abnormal Working Condition’ For Trooper

In Pennsylvania, for an employee to succeed in bringing a workers’ compensation claim for a psychological disability, the employee must ordinarily show that the disability “was more than a subjective reaction to normal working conditions.” Pennsylvania courts have struggled for years trying to apply this standard to public safety employees. The case of Rodney Washington is a good example of how difficult it is for a public safety employee…

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PTSD Resulting From Spitting Incident Does Not Qualify As Accidental Disability

Under New Jersey law, public safety officers who suffer from an “accidental” disability are entitled to a higher pension than those suffering from other disabilities. In the case of stress disabilities, the rule is that the disability must result “from direct personal experience of a terrifying or horror-inducing event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a similarly serious threat to the physical integrity of the…

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Officer Loses Post-Traumatic Stress Claim

William Biasetti was a police officer with the Stamford, Connecticut Police Department. On May 24, 2005, Biasetti was involved in a high-speed car chase on Interstate 95 during a torrential rainstorm. At the conclusion of the high-speed chase, Biasetti was engaged in a gun battle with the suspects and was in fear of losing his life. During the course of the gun battle, Biasetti injured his right elbow and…

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Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Award Requiring Disciplinary Retraining Of Sheriff, Aides

Jan Bartleson became a Yakima County, Washington sheriff’s deputy in 1995. She generally received positive work reviews until January 2001, when she received a three-day suspension for an on-duty automobile accident. The Yakima County Law Enforcement Officers Guild filed a grievance and the suspension was reduced to one day. Thereafter, Bartleson’s relationship with Sheriff Ken Irwin began to deteriorate. Bartleson exhausted her paid leave due to a combination of…

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Police Department Need Not Wait For Actual Personnel Problems To Order Fitness For Duty Evaluation

Oscar Brownfield began working as a police officer for the Yakima, Washington Police Department in November 1999. Approximately one year later, he suffered a closed head injury in an off-duty car accident. After recovering from symptoms including reduced self-awareness, Brownfield returned to full duty in July 2001. He received positive performance evaluations and was awarded several commendations over the next three years. In June 2004, Brownfield began having problems…

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Sergeant Entitled To Premium Pay While On Disability

A sergeant with the City of Peekskill, New York Police Department received $5,000 per year for acting as senior Narcotics Investigation Unit supervisor. When the sergeant went on disability status, the City discontinued his premium pay. The sergeant’s labor organization, the Peekskill Police Association, challenged the City’s decision in arbitration. An arbitrator upheld the Association’s grievance. The Arbitrator concluded that the premium pay “was not payment for hours actually…

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Attorney Violates Firefighter’s Due Process Rights In Disability Hearing

Darren Williams, a firefighter with the Village of Morton Grove, Illinois, filed an application for a line-of-duty disability pension with the Board of Trustees of the Morton Grove Firefighters’ Pension Fund. Williams contended that he injured his right shoulder while responding to an ambulance call during which he transferred a patient from an ambulance cot to a hospital bed. The local Pension Board consisted of three firefighters, the president…

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Injury In Training Class Qualifies For Disability Benefits

Illinois has a state law that provides continuing health insurance benefits to public safety employees and their dependents if the employee suffers a catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of duty. To be eligible for the benefits, the law enforcement officer or firefighter must be injured while responding “to what is reasonably believed to be an emergency, an unlawful act perpetrated by another, or during the investigation…

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