A former Warner Robins police officer has filed a lawsuit contending that he was fired in 2014 for his disability under the pretext that he falsified his work time records.
The suit was filed last month in U.S. District Court in Macon by Jeremy Christensen. He is seeking more than $75,000 in damages. The city contends his firing was not related to his health.
According to the suit, Christensen was transferred out of the patrol division in October 2013 when occasional seizures from a medical condition "appeared to pose problems" for him as a patrol officer.
The suit did not elaborate on the medical condition. But Christensen said he is a member of a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act due to his disability.
In July 2014, while working for the police department's Teleserve unit, which allows residents to make some police reports over the phone, Christensen took two sick days. Feeling better but not fully recovered, Christensen said he received permission from a police lieutenant to take three more days off through annual leave, according to the suit.
The sick leave policy required a doctor's excuse for more than two days missed, and Christensen wanted to avoid a doctor's visit, the suit said.
Christensen said that when he submitted the required paperwork for the three days of annual leave, a secretary entered the information incorrectly and recorded that he had actually worked three days when he was on annual leave.
When he returned to work, Christensen was told he was being fired, while on probationary status, for falsifying his work time records, according to the suit. He was accused of missing three work days, when he was on approved annual leave, and for leaving an hour early on another occasion, when he had actually worked during the lunch hour, the lawsuit maintained.
The suit also contended that Christensen was not a probationary employee because he had worked for the department for more than year. He said he was hired on Feb. 6, 2013.
Christensen also said he was not given a written notice of his termination or an opportunity to respond to "the contentions that allegedly led to his termination," which violated city policy. Since he was fired, Christensen said he has been unable to find work.
Christensen "was terminated because of his disability under a pretext reason that he had falsified his work time records," the lawsuit alleged.
Christensen seeks a jury trial and the award of damages for alleged emotional distress, pain and suffering and lost wages.
Warner Robins City Attorney Jim Elliott said, however, that "the matters that led to his termination were not related in any way to health-related issues."
Elliott said Christensen was a probationary employee.
"At any time during that period, employees can be terminated for any reason, no reason, whatsoever," Elliott said. "We didn't even get into specifics. ... None of the documents related to the termination were very specific at all about performance-related matters but just found him to be an unsatisfactory probationary employee.
"So, under those circumstances, we just don't go into any more detail when an employee is terminated," he said.
The documents said only that Christensen was dismissed as a probationary employee and was "not eligible for rehire" with the police department. No additional explanation was given.
Although Christensen was hired in February 2013, the city's probationary period of one year is extended for law enforcement officers by the amount of time spent employed before mandate school, during mandate school and during orientation and completion of the field training program, Elliott said.
For Christensen, he said, that meant his probationary period began on Oct. 4, 2013, and that he still had four months to go when he was fired.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559, or find her on Twitter@becpurser.