Injured police officer sues Baldwin Borough

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A Baldwin Borough police officer has sued the municipality over the work assignment she received after she was injured.

Tracey LaPaglia filed the lawsuit Oct. 31 in U.S. District Court, claiming that following a work-related injury, the police department made her do work that male officers normally would not be assigned and then attempted to force her to leave her job.

According to the eight-page court document, Officer LaPaglia, who joined the department in 2003, was hurt on the job in early 2010 and had surgery in May and July. The department required her to return to work in September, assigning her "light duty" tasks.

"When a guy gets hurt, you don't come back in. There's no requirement to do anything," her attorney Joel Sansone said. "She gets treated differently. All of a sudden, there's this light-duty requirement. They say, 'You're going to be a secretary.' "

In November 2011, Officer LaPaglia filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, crossfiled with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. The following month, the department assigned her to full road duty, saying that no more light-duty work was available, according to the lawsuit.

"At that time, [Officer LaPaglia] was forced to apply for workers compensation benefits, which she is now receiving," the suit said.

The police department also required her to submit to independent medical examinations regarding her condition. The resulting reports contradicted her treating surgeon's opinion that she was unable to resume full duty, according to the lawsuit.

"Based upon various facts, [she] believes that the defendant has conspired with the [examining] physician to make false statements about the plaintiff's health for the purpose of forcing the plaintiff to resign her position," the document states.

The EEOC dismissed her complaint in August, and she filed suit within the 90-day window provided by the agency, contending violations of federal civil rights and state human relations acts.

Officer LaPaglia seeks reinstatement to the position to which she would have been entitled, along with accumulated seniority and fringe benefits. Alternatively, the police department would compensate her for lost salary, raises and other benefits.

"They're doing everything they can to force out an officer who was hurt in the line of duty," Mr. Sansone said. "From what I understand, she has an exemplary record, which makes it more hard to swallow. There's no good reason for this treatment."

Stanley Lederman, Baldwin Borough solicitor, could not be reached for comment.

neigh_south

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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