Officer wins bias suit against Baldwin Borough

Published Wednesday, March 08, 2006 By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A federal court jury has awarded a Bethel Park man $500,000, ruling that he was improperly passed over for a job on the Baldwin Borough police force because of a disability.

H. Timothy S. Kreger, 38, who was born with a deformed left hand and had once been treated for alcoholism, applied to become a police officer with Baldwin in February 2000. He had previously worked as an officer in Pittsburgh and Homestead.

Mr. Kreger went through the hiring process and was ranked second out of six potential candidates, according to his lawsuit. The borough eventually hired Nos. 1, 3 and 4, said Samuel J. Cordes, Mr. Kreger's attorney.

Initially, Mr. Kreger was told he wasn't hired because he didn't interview well. However, he later learned that a member of the Baldwin Civil Service Commission told Police Chief Christopher Kelly, "You're not going to hire that drunk and cripple," Mr. Cordes said.

Mr. Kreger filed his lawsuit in June 2005 under the Americans With Disabilities Act, claiming he was discriminated against because of his disability.

The trial began Monday before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, and the jury deliberated about two hours before returning a verdict about 3 p.m. yesterday.

Mr. Kreger's hand is missing two fingers and another is severely malformed. Despite that, he passed his physical agility test for the borough and all other requirements of the job, Mr. Cordes said.

"It's a disability that Tim has learned to overcome," he said.

Mr. Kreger, who is currently working as a part-time officer in West Homestead, will likely be awarded attorney fees, and expects to file a motion with Judge Schwab asking Baldwin to hire him as a police officer.