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Former Orange City officer sues city for discriminatory firing

A former Florida police officer is suing Orange City, alleging that he was wrongfully terminated because of the extended absences he took while he was battling cancer. The plaintiff, who is 27, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in January 2012.

The former officer first filed a discrimination complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC gave him the right to sue. In his federal lawsuit, he claims that the city was obligated to accommodate him under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the termination letter and other documents, his leave had already been extended three times, taking it beyond the 12 weeks he was legally allowed. His doctor had reportedly stated that he would not be able to return to work until the end of September 2012. His attorney says his client was going through a recommended fourth round of chemotherapy when he was terminated.

The plaintiff says that his fellow officers had donated some of their own sick leave, so he believed he had enough to go through a last round of chemo. According to the police chief, however, his absence of over six months had already been difficult for the department. The chief says that the department had to pay overtime to other officers to cover his shifts and that they had difficulty filling those shifts. An official for the city says that although the officer, who had been with the department since 2009, still had 869 hours of sick time that his colleagues had donated to him, another officer was required on the force in the interest of public safety.

The plaintiff, who is now free of cancer, is seeking front and back pay as well as punitive and compensatory damages. As his attorney says, “They did not have to terminate him. They could have extended his medical leave to give him time to recover so he can come back to work.”

Many different types of situations fall under the umbrella of “disability discrimination.” There are numerous laws in place to help protect employees’ ability to earn a living while dealing with an illness or disability. Florida employment attorneys can help people determine if a termination or other work-related issue can be considered disability discrimination under the law.

Source: Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Former Orange City officer with cancer sues city claiming discriminatory firing," Patricio G. Balona, July 2, 2014

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