Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Detective Awarded $225,000 in Disability Discrimination Case
It was English poet, painter and thinker William Blake who once said, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” But it is Baltimore police detective William Blake (no relation) who has to put these words into action. He was awarded $225,000 by a jury last week after suffering disability discrimination doled out by his friends at the police department.
Detective Blake, 40, suffered a seizure in 1996 while on the job. A proud officer since 1987, Blake returned to his duties and has lived seizure-free since the incident in 1996. It was the Baltimore Police Department who had a hard time forgiving and forgetting Detective Blake’s seizure, however. In 2006, a decade after the seizure took place, Blake was ordered to submit to neurological and fitness tests despite other evidence that the officer had been healthy. Col. Terrence B. Sheridan ordered that Blake be given an electroencephalogram to measure electrical activity in the brain along with other tests to determine if he was fit to serve as a police officer. The problem with the ordered fit-tests? They violated the Americans with Disabilities Act which penalizes discrimination against anyone with a disability.
Blake took his friends at police department to court. According to the lawsuit, Sheridan’s order for the tests came on the heels of a colleague who was forced into retirement by Sheridan because he too had suffered from “potential seizures.” That officer, Phillip Crumbacker, challenged Sheridan’s decision. Human resources officers also questioned the order for Blake’s electroencephalogram as he had already been declared fit for duty.
A six-day trial and hours of testimony later, a federal jury found that Blake was indeed discriminated against. The detective, who still works for the police department, was awarded $225,000 in damages. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in January that it was conducting a full-scale investigation into whether Baltimore County officials violated the rights of other employees under the ADA.