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Police Softball Injuries And Workers’ Compensation

Cases from two different states illustrate the struggles courts have in deciding whether injuries suffered during off-duty employer-sanctioned sporting events should be covered by the workers’ compensation system. The first of the cases involved Joanne Whitehead, a deputy sheriff for the Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Department. After she reported to work one day, Whitehead received a series of e-mails informing her that two sections of the Sheriff’s Department were…

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NYPD Officer Loses Battle To Get Gun Back During Investigation

Manuel Gomez, a New York City police officer, was a plaintiff and one of five class members who opted out of the class action brought on behalf of all Latino and African-American members of NYPD that settled in 2004. In April 2004, Gomez received mobilization orders from the United States Army and went on military leave. Just before he reported for duty, he was telephoned by the Department and…

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Union Member Cannot Sue Union’s Lawyer For Malpractice

Dr. Steven Weiner worked for the Clark County, Nevada School District from 1973 until his termination in 1997. When the District terminated Weiner in 1997, Weiner’s labor organization, the Clark County Association of School Administrators, challenged the termination in arbitration. An arbitrator upheld Weiner’s termination. Weiner then sued Thomas Beatty, the Association’s attorney, for legal malpractice. Weiner contended that the manner in which Beatty conducted the arbitration on behalf…

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Whistleblowing Deputy Loses Lawsuit

Frank Vernagallo was a full-time deputy sheriff for Harris County, Texas. Vernagallo was a much-decorated deputy who nonetheless had a very controversial tenure. Vernagallo not only made numerous allegations of illegal conduct on the part of other employees, he also was the subject of complaints by citizens and fellow officers related to his temper and treatment of the public. Vernagallo’s troubled behavior seemed to peak in late 1997, when…

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Sergeant Receives Seniority Credit For Time On Disability Retirement

An individual was hired by the City of Medford, Massachusetts Police Department as a patrol officer in 1977, and was promoted to sergeant in April 1984. The sergeant incurred an on-the-job injury, and received a disability retirement in March 1990. On September 30, 2001, the sergeant’s disability had resolved to the point where he returned to work. A dispute immediately arose over whether the sergeant should receive seniority credit…

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Detective’s Reinstatement To Patrol Does Not Constitute Discipline

Because of a staffing shortage, the Municipality of Kingston, Pennsylvania Police Department reassigned a detective to a patrol position. The detective’s labor organization challenged the reassignment in arbitration, alleging that the reassignment was the equivalent of disciplinary action. An arbitrator sided with the Municipality. The Arbitrator concluded that the collective bargaining agreement gave the Municipality the right to reduce the work force. The Arbitrator expressed his understanding that the…

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Employer Violates Contract When It Prevents Officers From Working On Their Birthdays

The Municipality of Murrysville, Pennsylvania Police Department directed officers scheduled to work on their birthdays to remain at home. The measure was a cost-savings endeavor, designed to relieve the Municipality from the obligation to compensate officers at the premium holiday rate on their birthdays. The Department’s labor organization challenged the decision through the grievance procedure. An arbitrator upheld the grievance. The Arbitrator reasoned that by directing officers to remain…

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Firefighter On-The-Job Injury Presumption Included In Collective Bargaining Agreement

In August 2002, a battalion chief with the City of East Providence, Rhode Island Fire Department was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The battalion chief missed 44 days of work. The City treated the battalion chief’s absence as being attributable to sick leave, not an on-the-job injury. Local 850 of the International Association of Fire Fighters contested the City’s decision, contending that the parties had included in their collective bargaining…

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County’s Letter About Bargaining Goes Over The Line

Jackson County, Michigan and the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan (POAM) were parties to a collective bargaining agreement that expired on December 31, 2001. When they were unable to reach an agreement, POAM invoked interest arbitration under Michigan law. During the arbitration process, the County proposed a settlement that included a retroactive wage increase for bargaining unit members. When POAM rejected the settlement, the County mailed letters to bargaining…

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Court Finds Police Officer’s Whistleblowing Web Page And E-Mail Protected By First Amendment

Dennis Whittie is a police officer with the City of Hamtramck, Michigan. In the Spring of 2003, he sent correspondence to City, County and State authorities reporting that City employee, Melvin Turner, held two municipal positions in violation of a Michigan state law. Later that year, Whittie discovered that Steve Shaya, the City’s building superintendent, had concealed the fact that he was a convicted felon and was thereby employed…

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Troopers Lose Workers’ Comp Claim For Hepatitis Incurred While Eating Meal On Stakeout

Richard Davy and Nicholas Loffredo are members of the Pennsylvania State Police, normally stationed in Lamar, Pennsylvania. On October 5, 2003, the troopers traveled to Beaver, Pennsylvania to conduct surveillance in a homicide investigation. The following day, the troopers began working at approximately 5:00 a.m. and conducted surveillance for four hours. After returning to the hotel to sleep for a few hours, they went to the local police department,…

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Police Applicant With Color Blindness Loses Lawsuit

Michael Taveras applied to become a police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. During his initial medical screening, Taveras was diagnosed with a color vision deficiency and was referred to Ophthalmologic Associates for further testing. Ophthalmologic Associates reported to the Port Authority that Taveras has a “strong protan defect,” referring to an abnormality in the red pigment of the eye. Taveras’ vision defect resulted…

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Reaction To “Barney Fife” Comment Costs Arkansas Police Chief His Job

Tommy Smith was the Chief of Police for the City of Elkins, Arkansas. Smith attended a meeting of the Elkins City Council on April 10, 2003. During the meeting, Smith decided to inquire about proposed enforcement of the building moratorium previously imposed by the City Council. When Smith took the floor to speak, not only as the Police Chief but as a private citizen, he prefaced his comments regarding…

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Police Chief’s “Young Turks” Comment Can Support Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Dann McInnis is a police officer with the Town of Weston, Connecticut. McInnis participated in a promotional process for the position of sergeant in 2002. The promotional exam consisted of a written and an oral portion, each of which counted for half the total score. McInnis had the second highest written score of 83, behind two officers, each of whom were over the age of 40 and scored 85….

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State Does Not Have To Honor Trooper Candidate’s Request For Days Off On His Sabbath

Yaniv Sides applied to be a New York State Police trooper. Sides passed the written test and in a letter dated July 13, 2001, was advised that his position on the trooper-eligible candidate list had been reached and that in order to continue the process it was necessary for him to report for further processing. Sides wrote a letter in response stating that he would not report on the…

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Chief’s Threat To Kill Police Union Representatives Is Unfair Labor Practice

To say that relations between Saginaw Township Police Chief Stephen Renico and the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) were rocky in 2001 is an understatement. On September 7, 2001, Chief Renico told representatives of POAM that he had thoughts of killing them and burying their bodies where no one could find them, as was done to former Teamsters’ head James Hoffa. Chief Renico then calmed down and told…

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Assault Against Former Girlfriend Qualifies For Disqualification Under Lautenberg Amendment

The so-called Lautenberg Amendment, 18 U.S.C. §922(g)(9), makes it unlawful for persons convicted of “misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence” to possess or receive firearms. When Alex Woods, a police officer with Denver, Colorado Police Department, was convicted by a jury of third-degree assault against a woman with whom he had formerly lived, the City terminated him. Woods’ challenge to his termination eventually made its way to the Colorado Court…

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Whistleblowing Deputy Allowed To Sue District Attorney

In a federal court lawsuit, Rene Botello, a former sexual assault investigator for the Washoe County, Nevada Sheriff’s Office, made a number of allegations against the Washoe County district attorney. Botello alleged that he learned that Nurse Lily Clarkson, who regularly testified as a medical expert in child sexual assault cases, was “indisputably wrong” in a medical finding that a certain female child had been sexually penetrated, had no…

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Officer Wins Stress Claim For Off-Duty Shooting

Chris White was employed full time by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County, Kentucky Government Police Department and part time as a security guard at Fayette Mall, an indoor commercial shopping center. On January 5, 2001, White completed his shift for the Department and reported to his security guard job. Approximately one hour into that job, White received a call from a police dispatcher regarding a male subject at the mall….

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Discrimination Law Trumps Ban On Interest Found In Tort Claims Act

Joseph Potente was a long-term investigator for the Hudson County, New Jersey Prosecutor’s Office. In December 1993, Potente was involved in a work-related auto accident, resulting in injuries to his shoulder. He claimed and received workers’ compensation benefits. Potente returned to work on a part-time basis, but his shoulder pain worsened and required surgery for resolution. Potente utilized vacation, sick leave, and compensatory time off in order to receive…

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Firefighter Loses Sexual Harassment Claim But Can Proceed With Racial Harassment Lawsuit

Danielle Cortes-Devito was the only African-American female who was employed as a paramedic with the Village of Stone Park, Illinois Fire Department. In a lawsuit she subsequently filed, Cortes-Devito alleged that her coworkers repeatedly interfered with her work and humiliated her by engaging in unwelcome and offensive conduct. Specifically, Cortes-Devito alleged that her coworkers made offensive jokes and comments that were racially insensitive in and outside of her presence….

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Corrections Officer Loses Case When She Fails To Follow Procedure For Reporting Sexual Harassment Claims

Linda Roebuck sued her employer, the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, alleging that she was the victim of sexual harassment perpetrated by her supervisor, Larry Corbett. When the jury found the Department not liable for Corbett’s conduct, Roebuck appealed. Many sexual harassment cases today are covered by the standards in two Supreme Court decisions, Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998) and Burlington Industries, Inc….

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No Constitutional Right To Health Insurance

The Town of La Plata, Maryland provides health insurance to its employees. In 1996, the Town offered employees an option: If employees who were able to obtain health insurance coverage elsewhere opted out of the Town’s health insurance plan, the Town would make a contribution to the deferred compensation 401(k) accounts of the employees who opted out. The opt-out arrangement worked well for a number of years, with the…

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Police Chief Wins Legal Battle With Town

Robert Kells is the Police Chief of the Town of Lincoln, Rhode Island. The employment agreement between Kells and the Town provided for a three-year contract beginning December 1, 2002, and continuing through November 30, 2005. The agreement also provided that “in accordance with Section 9-1 of the Charter, the Chief’s appointment is for an indefinite term and subject to removal in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.”…

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Vote On Pension Board Protected By First Amendment

Frank Hauenschild has served in the Harvey, Illinois Fire Department for 27 years. During the last 12 years of his employment, he held the rank of captain and served as a shift commander. As a shift commander, Hauenschild had a consistent shift of 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off duty. This schedule allowed him to obtain a law degree and thereafter to become a practicing attorney…

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