By Andy Volin
A police officer in a small town asked for light duty after she hurt her foot off duty. The chief refused because there was no light duty available, the force had only provided it in the past to officers with work related injuries, and it had actually entirely discontinued light duty prior to the officer’s request. The officer then claimed she was pregnant and renewed her request for light duty, supported by a doctor’s note. Again, the chief denied light duty, and this time, he placed the officer on unpaid FMLA leave. After her leave expired, the city contacted her about her plans to return, but she ignored their communications, and eventually the city concluded she had quit. She claimed pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, based on being denied light duty, being forced on unpaid FMLA leave, and then being fired.
The district court ruled in favor of the city, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The city’s refusal to provide light duty was justified and not a pretext for discrimination. While being forced to take unpaid FMLA leave might be considered retaliatory in some circumstances, the officer did not make that argument. As for her termination, that claim failed because she did not file a charge of discrimination. Freppon v City of Chandler (10th Cir. July 1, 2013).