By Carson Gerber
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Civil Rights Commission says the Howard County Sheriff’s Department likely violated the state’s civil rights laws after denying a former jail officer recovering from an illness a light-duty assignment and later terminating him.
According to an investigation by the commission, the jail officer was granted medical leave for about three months in 2012 due to a serious illness.
When the officer obtained a doctor’s note releasing him for light-duty work at the jail, such as mail delivery or inspection, the sheriff’s department allegedly said it did not provide light-duty work and denied his request.
The officer was then terminated shortly afterward, approximately six months before he would qualify for retirement, according to the investigation.
The commission said the sheriff’s department later admitted at least two employees had previously been placed in light-duty positions because of injuries.
The commission last week said there was probable cause to believe the sheriff’s department engaged in a discriminatory practice against the officer.
Brad Meadows, the commission’s deputy director of external affairs, said Tuesday the former officer and the sheriff’s department now have until the end of the month to reach an agreement before the case goes before an administrative law judge.
Meadows said no criminal charges are involved.
If a judge determines the sheriff’s department violated the officer’s civil rights, the officer likely would receive monetary compensation and could potentially get his job back, he said.
Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said sheriff department attorneys are currently reviewing the commission’s investigation to determine whether to take the case to court or reach an outside agreement by the end of the month.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
The Indiana Civil Rights Commission issues around 100 probable-cause notices for civil-rights violations every year to employers, Meadows said.