SALT LAKE CITY — A former police officer’s disability discrimination lawsuit against Roy City remains alive in U.S. District Court.
Judge Jill Parrish last week denied the city’s motion to dismiss Brian Seward’s complaint that alleged he was put on unpaid leave and told he had to pass a fit-for-duty exam within two weeks in order to return to work as an officer.
Roy City argued that Seward did not suffer an adverse employment action because the city merely asked him to schedule an appointment with a doctor to determine when he could return to his full work duties. Roy City asserted that Seward then chose to retire.
But Parrish said she could not dismiss the claim because the facts remain in dispute. Therefore, the case will continue toward trial or settlement.
The litigation centers on Seward’s contention that the city failed to follow through with an “interactive process” between employee and employer that is required by the Americans With Disabilities Act as a worker returns to the job with a disability.
The goal of that process is to determine whether a reasonable accommodation can be reached so the employee can work light duty with the goal of resuming full duty after rehabilitation.
The veteran police officer, who joined the Roy force in 2001, was on active Air Force duty from February to October 2014 at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, according to the lawsuit he filed in 2017.
While loading aircraft at the base, Seward suffered severe damage in both knees. The injuries required several surgeries, and during certain periods afterward his ability to walk, run and stand or perform the essential functions of his job was hindered without a reasonable accommodation, according to the suit.
In May 2015, Seward alleged, he was told he was being put on unpaid leave and that he could not return to work until authorized by a doctor of the city’s choosing. Seward believed that he could not pass a physical within the allotted two weeks and did not call the city doctor.
In the lawsuit, Seward said he protested being put on leave and “knew he could not afford to go out on unpaid leave for any length of time” and be able to support his wife and five children.
He said he had no choice but to borrow money to buy out his last year of service from the Utah Retirement System and retire at less than half the benefits he could have received if he had been able to continue as a police officer for another six years.
The city denied all allegations in the lawsuit.
Before Parrish’s ruling Wednesday, Seward said he had dropped two other claims from the suit involving alleged disability discrimination under the ADA and the Rehab Act. Parrish confirmed that circumstance in her ruling, dismissing those two claims from the suit.
Efforts to contact Seward’s attorney, Erik Strindberg, and Kristin VanOrman, representing Roy, were not immediately successful.