I am a law enforcement officer in LA County, and was demoted and fired due to my need to take time off for medical reasons. Can I sue my agency in Court? (either state court or federal court?) Or I am stuck with the union grievance procedure? Are there any employment lawyers familiar with government employees who know what the process involves?
Administrative Law Lawyer
Law enforcement employment is subject to the department's internal rules and regulations, collective bargaining agreement, Peace Officer's Bill of Rights, personnel ordinance of the local employing entity, and laws re public and peace officer employment, most of which are in the Government Code and referred to as "MMB." POST-certification standards are sometimes in that mix as well.
If we are talking about LAPD, CHP, or LASO,or associated school or airport p.o. employment, there is a lot of sophisticated legal knowledge, history, and experience in the department, but they have been the respondent and losing party in a number of important public employment appellate court decisions.
For many matters, such as work schedule and performance ratings, the grievance procedure is the limit of your rights. For some matters, State law is the exclusive remedy (i.e., worker's comp injuries). POBOR controls in most circumstances of termination for misconduct. POST may be at issue if your medical circumstance affected sworn duties.
Generally speaking, you need to talk with an attorney who understands not only law enforcement personnel and termination processes, but ADA as it applies specifically to law enforcement employment. That is a very narrow sub-set of discrimination law attorneys.
I cannot tell from your very abbreviated description of the reason for your termination what rights you should have had pre-termination. You can email me privately to set up a consultation if you like. Or you may still be able to access and consult with the attorney that was provided by your union, even though you are apparently no longer a represented employee.
Christine McCall, License Advocates Law Group
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Employment / Labor Attorney
Depending how long you were employed, you may have claims for disability discrimination and failure to provide reasonable accommodation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Furthermore, if your medical reasons arose out of your employment, you should also consider filing a workers' compensation claim. Thus, you would be well served seeking a consultation from an employment attorney who knows the workers' compensation system and disability discrimination laws under California. Good luck.
Any post of discussion above is general in nature and is not intended to and should not be construed as legal advice. Furthermore, the above posting does not create or establish any attorney-client relationship. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. [John D. Wu is licensed to practice law before all California federal and state courts]
State, Local, and Municipal Law Attorney
Ms. McCall gave you a good overview of your rights and the issues. If you were truly demoted and fired due to medical issues there certainly could be violations of both state and federal law (FEHA and ADA). In additions, as you probably know, you have protections under POBR. Beyond that, you still also need to follow your appeal rights under your local agencies procedures, as well as the appeal that you must be afforded under POBR. In my experience, your POA/union should be providing you with representation. The attorneys I've encountered representing police unions and police officers are often extremely aggressive in representing officers. I've certainly seen situations where federal court lawsuits have been brought while administrative procedures are also being followed, but you also need to exhaust those procedures. Moreover, attorneys who specialized in representing law enforcement officers and POAs are often former officers themselves... Good luck...
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