MONROE — A police officer with a stutter was subjected to discrimination and to 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 readily noticeable when he was hired as a road patrol officer in Monroe in southwest Ohio in 2001, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month.
Parson’s attorney, John Scaccia, said Monday his client was informed last week that his employment with the city would end on Dec. 31. Scaccia says the firing is retaliation for the lawsuit. Messages seeking comment from city officials on Parson’s employment status and the lawsuit were not immediately returned Monday.
The city’s lawyer, R. Gary Winters, said the city denies the allegations of discrimination and other mistreatment, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Winters said Parson was notified before the lawsuit was filed that his leave of absence for the past few months would expire at the end of the year, according to the Enquirer.
But Scaccia said Parson’s doctor wrote notes legitimizing his leave, with the last one extending it into 2013.
Winters said Parson is losing his job because he’s incapable of performing the duties of a police officer, according to his own doctor, the newspaper reported. But Scaccia argued the city put Parson in a police position “most incompatible with his disability.”
Scaccia said police officials went to Parson’s home last week to collect his badge and uniform and had “already decided that Ken Parson was going to be terminated” even before a hearing last week.
“He was able to mask his disability even when he was transferred to the detective section in 2007, but it later became more noticeable,” Scaccia said.
Parson had successful investigations and received accolades for his work as a detective, but was increasingly subjected to “practical jokes and ridicule” and was referred to “as a dummy to his face by an officer in front of his superior who laughed,” according to the lawsuit.
In June 2011, Parson was moved from detective to road patrolman. He challenged that, arguing the stutter would make it difficult for him to shout for suspects to stop or to cry out for assistance. City Manager William Brock told The Associated Press at that time that Parson’s detective assignment was a temporary one scheduled to end after four years and that those positions are rotated.
The lawsuit says Parson’s mental and physical health have suffered because of the stress of his new patrol position and ridicule and harassment over his disability.