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Employment Discrimination

August 8, 2015

The Firm obtained summary judgment for an Alabama city on claims by one of its former police officers for disability discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation. The city fired the officer for multiple violations of its rules and policies stemming from (a) inappropriate and suggestive text messages which the officer sent to a female teenager he met at a restaurant, as well as (b) a subsequent traffic stop which the officer made of the young girl late at night. The evidence proved that the officer later urged the girl to not just deny that that he had bothered her with his text messages, but that she also support his claim that the headlights of her vehicle were not on when he stopped her and such was his reason for the stop. After the girl complained to the city that the officer’s conduct scared and made her uncomfortable, the city began an investigation of the matter (during which time the officer filed with the EEOC a charge of discrimination), following which the city terminated the officer’s employment for, among other things, conduct unbecoming a public employee.

 

The officer unsuccessfully appealed his termination to the personnel board and the EEOC, and then unsuccessfully contested his termination through a claim for unemployment compensation benefits (in which he represented that he had no disability and can perform his regular job duties). He then obtained employment elsewhere as a police officer. Later, he filed suit against the city in federal court, claiming that the city’s reasons for his termination were a pretext for disability discrimination (his claimed knee problems and high blood pressure), age discrimination, and retaliation for the filing of his EEOC charge of discrimination. Following exhaustive discovery, the Firm moved the court to grant it summary judgment on all the officer’s claims.

 

In a lengthy and well-reasoned opinion, the court agreed with the city and upheld its termination of the officer. The court concluded that the facts proved the officer had (1) failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding his claimed knee disability, (2) failed to establish that his high blood pressure significantly impaired his ability to work as a police officer, (3) failed to establish that either of his claimed disabilities motivated the city to fire him, (4) failed to show that the city had treated him less favorably than any similarly-situated younger or non-disabled police officer, (5) failed to show that the city’s reasons for his termination were a pretext for either disability/age discrimination or retaliation (the court specifically found that the officer’s story and version of events about his traffic stop of the young girl was concocted), and (6) failed to establish a causal connection between the filing of his EEOC charge of discrimination and his termination. Summary judgment was granted for the city and the case was dismissed.

 

Terry Sides was lead counsel for the city

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