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Pennsylvania police officer files disability discrimination suit

A police officer working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has filed a complaint in federal court alleging that her commanding officer discriminated against her based on her disability. The officer filed the complaint without the assistance of counsel and may appear before the court as a pro se plaintiff.

The officer is female and African American, and as a part of her complaint she also alleged that the department and her supervisors violated two federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a state law called the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

She says that she had been working for the police department for more than a decade when she was diagnosed with hypertension, a medical condition that can result in dizziness, increased blood pressure, headaches, and other types of pain. About a year after her diagnosis, she was questioned about her use of her sick leave, at which point she told her superiors about her condition.

In a case where the employer was complying with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act, they would have offered her reasonable accommodations such as a less physically demanding job or perhaps short breaks when necessary. Instead, she was told that they would not continue to tolerate use of her sick time. This is illegal, since employers cannot prevent employees from using their benefits for their intended purposes without compensation.

A colleague of the officer in this case also used significant sick leave, and he was treated differently than her and was allowed to move to a less stressful position within the same department.

A year after that, the officer was discovered to be at risk for an immediate heart attack or stroke because of her high blood pressure and she was put on additional medications. She became sick one night while working an overnight shift and was afraid that she was suffering from a heart attack or a stroke and had to seek medical attention. According to the complaint that she filed in federal court, she was treated poorly at work after that, subjected to more scrutiny than similarly situation white male colleagues.

Source: Pennsylvania Record, "Capt. Of Phila's South Detectives Division named in discrimination claim by subordinate," Jon Campisi, Jan. 15, 2013.

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