SETTLEMENT REACHED IN LAWSUIT AGAINST CITY OF CHICAGO BY POLICE OFFICER WITH DISABILITY
Equip for Equality Negotiates $337,500, New Job and Pay Increase for Plaintiff on Eve of Trial
CHICAGO (June 19, 2001) - On the verge of trial set for June 18, Equip for Equality negotiated a settlement for former police officer Richard Clark in his 1997 lawsuit against the City of Chicago filed in U.S. District Court. Clark, who was wounded in a 1991 off-duty accident and must use a wheelchair for mobility, had requested a reasonable accommodation to return to work in a limited duty position. The City of Chicago rejected Clark's request, despite his ability to safely handle a firearm and to perform non-patrol police duties.
Following formal approval of the settlement terms by the City Council in September, the City of Chicago will pay Clark $337,500 in damages, lost wages, costs and attorneys' fees. After October 1, he will be eligible for a new job, the next available 911 emergency response position. It will pay him 35% more than the current salary he receives for a 311 non-emergency response position he has held since October 2000.
"This case sends a message to the City that there are serious financial consequences for failing to accommodate police officers like Mr. Clark who become disabled but can continue, nonetheless, to make a valuable contribution," says Beth A. Miller, Senior Attorney for Equip for Equality.
Prior to settlement, Judge Paul Plunkett rejected two attempts by the City to prevent the case from going to trial, a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment. He held that a jury could reasonably conclude that shooting a weapon while standing and independently ambulating are not essential functions of the limited duty police officer position Clark was seeking.
Equip for Equality's Senior Counsel Karen I. Ward commented, "In light of this important settlement, we urge the City to recognize that its policy denying limited duty positions to officers who use assistive devices is unreasonable and should be changed."
Says plaintiff Clark, "For seven years, I've been trying to go back to work as a police officer so I could use my skills and expertise. Although I'm not wearing the blues of the Department, I'm happy to have the dispute behind me and to be compensated. I hope the City will change its policy so that other officers with disabilities will have the opportunity to stay in the Department in a limited duty position."
Equip for Equality is a nonprofit organization designated by the Governor to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System for people with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois. Its legal department litigates cases that have the potential for system-wide reform, as in Richard B. Clark v. City of Chicago (No. 97C4820).
For further information, contact Barry Taylor at (312) 341-0022, (800) 537-2632, or TTY (800) 610-2779.