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Published: Wednesday, 1/2/2013

Police officer who stutters files bias suit

Southwest Ohio city fires man;he alleges retaliation for action


MONROE, Ohio — A police officer with a stutter suffered discrimination, ridicule, and harassment resulting in a hostile work environment, according to a lawsuit filed by the officer that also alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act.

Officer Ken Parson has had a stutter since childhood, but it wasn’t apparent when he was hired for road patrol in 2001, the recently filed lawsuit says.

The officer’s attorney, John Scaccia, said his client was informed last week his employment would end New Year’s Eve.

Mr. Scaccia said the firing is retaliation for the suit. Messages seeking comment from officials on the officer’s employment status and lawsuit were not returned.

City lawyer R. Gary Winters said the city denies the allegations, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Mr. Winters said Officer Parson was notified before the suit was filed that his leave of absence would expire at year’s end.

But Mr. Scaccia said the officer’s doctor wrote notes authorizing his leave, with the last one extending it into 2013.

Mr. Winters said Officer Parson is losing his job because his own doctor deemed him incapable of performing an officer’s duties, the newspaper said. But Mr. Scaccia argues the city put the officer in a job “most incompatible with his disability.”

Mr. Scaccia said officials went to the officer’s home last week to get his badge and uniform and had “already decided that Ken Parson was going to be terminated” before a hearing last week.

Officer Parson had successful investigations and received accolades for detective work but was subjected to “practical jokes and ridicule” and referred to “as a dummy to his face by an officer in front of his superior who laughed,” the suit says.

In June, 2011, he was moved from detective to road patrolman. He challenged that, arguing the stutter would make it tough to shout for suspects to halt or to cry out for help. City Manager William Brock said then the officer’s detective assignment was temporary and to end after four years.

The suit says the officer’s mental and physical health have suffered from the stress of his patrol job and ridicule and harassment. It seeks compensation for lost wages and other relief, including more than $500,000 in compensatory damages and more than $2 million in punitive damages.

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