Former officer files complaint against Mingo Junction

MINGO JUNCTION — A former Mingo Junction police officer has filed a complaint against the village and its police chief, alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The suit was filed by Cody Moore of 106 Culler Road, Weirton, who is being represented by Trisha Breedlove of the Columbus-based Spitz Law Firm.

In the complaint, which was filed Jan. 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division, Moore alleges that the village and Police Chief Willie McKenzie discriminated against him because of his disabilities, in violation of the ADA and Ohio law, failed to accommodate him and retaliated against him.

Moore also alleges that the village unlawfully interfered with his Family Medical Leave Act rights and that McKenzie “aided, abetted, incited, coerced and/or compelled (the village’s) discriminatory adverse employment actions.”

In addition to demanding a jury trial, Moore is asking that a permanent injunction be placed on the village, abolishing alleged discriminatory behavior, requiring various anti-discrimination measures and “requiring the removal or demotion of all supervisors” involved in alleged discriminatory behavior or who failed to take action against it.

Moore also is asking to be restored to one his original positions with the village, as well as an award against each defendant of compensatory and monetary damages, exceeding $25,000 per claim, to compensate for alleged physical injury and sickness, lost wages, emotional distress and consequential damages. The suit seeks punitive damages exceeding $25,000 against each defendant.

Village officials and McKenzie said they have no comment, although the village’s insurance company is in the process of filing a written response, the village’s Solicitor Craig Allen said.

Under federal rules, the defendants have 21 days to file a response after being served a summons and the copy of the complaint, though they can request an extension.

The complaint argues that there is a causal connection between Moore’s disability and his termination, which has allegedly caused Moore emotional distress and monetary harm.

According to the filing, Moore, who began serving as a patrolman for the village police department on Jan. 14, 2022, is said to have experienced a “medical emergency” on Aug. 26, 2022, that caused shortness of breath, increased heart rate, disorientation and other symptoms. Moore was taken for treatment by Trinity Health System, and he was examined by a cardiologist.

By Aug. 28, Moore had not recovered from the emergency, and the symptoms worsened, warranting a five-day hospitalization. While hospitalized in early September, Moore was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a brain aneurysm and hemiplegic migraines.

Moore allegedly disclosed his disabilities — amounting to intellectual disabilities and physical impairments — to the village and McKenzie. He was able to perform the essential functions of his job despite the disabilities “substantially (impairing) one or more major life activities, including working,” the complaint reads.

On Dec. 13, 2022, Moore and a union representative attended a Village Council meeting to present his medical paperwork. During the meeting, Moore allegedly told village officials that he could not return to work until Jan. 2, he could only work daylight shifts from then on and he could only work 45 hours or fewer every week, as per his physician’s orders.

The complaint claims Moore should have been informed by the village of his rights according to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, which guarantees medical and family leave for qualified employees. However, the complaint claims, Moore was not informed of these rights.

Returning to work around Jan. 17, 2023, Moore was allegedly informed by McKenzie on Jan. 30 that he would resume working more than 45 hours per week and shifts other than daylight beginning in February. The complaint claims McKenzie’s alleged behavior negatively affected the employment of Moore, who allegedly reported scheduling discriminations to McKenzie.

The complaint claims that reports of discrimination were “willfully” not investigated by the village, ratifying McKenzie’s alleged discriminatory behavior and allowing it to continue. Further, the complaint claims that Moore received a disciplinary write-up claiming Moore “engaged in subordination” through the report. This constituted the first of two alleged retaliations against Moore for asserting his rights against discrimination.

Village officials allegedly continued inaction, the complaint claims.

On Feb. 11, Moore allegedly submitted a second work accommodation request, which the complaint claims would not have caused the village “undue hardship.” The village allegedly did not investigate any possible hardships nor seek alternative means of providing an accommodation, allegedly stating it “did not have any … available.”

Also on Feb. 11, the village engaged in its second alleged retaliation by suspending Moore’s employment indefinitely, with the intention to “make Moore quit” and making it “less likely for a reasonable employee to make a report or oppose (discriminatory) conduct,” the suit alleges.

Three days later, Moore and his physician allegedly submitted paperwork requesting Moore be granted FMLA leave, which he claimed he was eligible for, though the village denied the request. On April 19, Moore’s employment was terminated, with the village claiming his employment could be terminated at will since he had allegedly not completed a one-year probationary period, which the complaint claims he had.

The complaint claims Moore had exhausted all other direct remedies with the village prior to its filing. The complaint was filed within 90 days of Moore being issued a notice of right to sue by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


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