A federal jury Tuesday awarded a former McPherson police officer who was found sleeping on duty almost $1 million in wages and damages.
Matthew B. Michaels alleged the city violated his civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Kansas Wage Payment Act. He was fired from the McPherson Police Department in July 2012. Michaels said he was discriminated against because of a sleep apnea disability.
He alleged he was denied a “name clearing hearing” after his termination, the city interfered with one day of family medical leave and he was denied four days of vacation.
Attorney Ray Simmons said in an email to the Associated Press Thursday Michaels is pleased to get a “name-clearing hearing” in federal court where a jury rendered a verdict in his favor.
A court judgment filed Wednesday orders the city to pay $921,657 — plus interest, court costs and attorney’s fees. That amount includes back and future wages as well as damages for pain and suffering.
The city has filed motions in the case that are yet to be decided, including one that asks a judge to overturn the jury’s verdict. City Attorney Jeff Houston said if the motion to overturn is not granted, the city plans to appeal.
If the city is not successful in its appeal, any damages would be paid by the city’s insurance. Attorneys for the city’s insurer are handling the case. The city already has met its deductible in relation to this lawsuit.
“The city is disappointed in the jury verdict, but we still have faith in the process, and we are moving forward under that belief,” Houston said.
Houston said it may be the first of the year before the current motions under consideration are resolved.
Michaels also filed a lawsuit against the city, which was settled in April, alleging the city owed him and other officers for unpaid overtime for the department’s “hot seat” program.
This program involved officers being picked up for work about five minutes prior to the start of their shifts. It was a long-standing program that was popular among officers because it allowed many to be one-car families.
However, if a call came in when the officers were on the way to the station, they had to respond.
The city terminated the hot seat program in light of the lawsuit.
Two other officers joined a class action with Michaels. The three officers were paid $38,019 in back pay and other fees to settle the lawsuit.
The city denied its policy was a willful violation of the law.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.