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Lawsuit of police officer fired over Taser training reinstated

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A federal appeals court has restored race, gender and disability discrimination claims filed by a fired police officer, who was terminated after she asked to be excused from Taser training because of a heart condition.

Jacqueline Lewis, an African-American woman, joined the Union City, Georgia, police force in 2000 and was promoted to detective in 2008, according to Friday’s ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in Jacqueline Lewis vs. City of Union City, Georgia, et al.

In January 2009, Ms. Lewis suffered a small heart attack but returned to work without any restrictions, according to the ruling. In 2010, the police chief purchased Tasers for all officers and required each to carry one.

Ms. Lewis was scheduled for Taser training, but in June 2010 her doctor sent the department a note stating he was worried the Taser ’s electrical current could cause her heart undue stress, and recommended a Taser gun not be used on or near her.

Two days later, Ms. Lewis was placed on administrative leave without pay and terminated the following month. Ms. Lewis filed suit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on charges including disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and race and gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The District Court granted Union City summary judgment dismissing the charges.

A divided three-judge appeals court panel reinstated the charges in its opinion, with the majority saying the case should be decided by a jury.

“In the last analysis, the evidence before the district court properly might have yielded any of a number of conclusions,” said the ruling.

“Perhaps Ms. Lewis was terminated simply because the (Union City Police Department) regarded her as disabled, thus violating the ADA,” the ruling said.

Perhaps, it said, it was because she was shirking to avoid the Taser shock, or she was fired because of the disparate application of Union City’s leave policies compared with white male officers.

“Perhaps her termination was the product of an amalgam of such considerations. At bottom, the ultimate decision in this case is for a properly instructed jury that has seen the witnesses and heard all of the evidence,” said the ruling.

The minority opinion said Ms. Lewis “has not shown that the Police Department fired her because it regarded her as disabled.”