Judge dismisses Tucson police bomb-squad officer’s lawsuit against city

A Tucson police bomb-squad officer who filed a lawsuit against the city claiming he was subjected to workplace harassment and discrimination saw his case dismissed by a federal judge Tuesday, according to court documents.

Charles Pickard, a 17-year veteran currently employed with the Tucson Police Department bomb squad unit, said in a November 2016 court complaint he was discriminated against working as a hazardous-devices technician because of his hand tremors, claiming those actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

On March 12, Judge Raner C. Collins said Pickard did not raise a genuine issue demonstrating he was discriminated against. “Pickard has not shown these actions were adverse and failed to raise a genuine dispute of material fact,” the court document said.

REASSIGNED
Pickard claimed he was reassigned to the Emergency Management and Homeland Security office in Tucson as retaliation for his hand tremors, accusing some department officials of perceiving it as a disability, court documents said. But it was determined Pickard was reassigned because he and a superior officer, Sgt. Ardan Devine, were unable to get along, not because of a disability.

Pickard said that in December 2012 he was informed by then-Assistant Chief Kathleen Robinson that a colleague reported their concerns about his slight hand tremors affecting his job performance.

He then accused Devine of reporting those concerns, saying there was animosity because Pickard had questioned some police procedures. Pickard said it was an attempt to get him removed from duty, court documents said.

Robinson told him she was aware of the hostility and urged him not to leave the department, adding Devine would soon retire.

After a “heated meeting” involving Pickard and Devine in the presence of Robinson, Pickard was transferred to the Homeland Security section of the bomb squad in an effort to physically separate him from Devine.

Pickard returned to the unit on March 24, 2014, once Devine retired, the documents said.

FIT FOR DUTY
In September 2013, Pickard admitted to spilling motor racing fuel he was handling during an explosives teaching course with the FBI. Two of his colleagues were in attendance. A week later, he was restricted from handling any dangerous chemicals until he passed a fitness-for-duty exam.

A TPD employee assisted Pickard to the evaluation on Oct. 8, which he said was discriminatory and unnecessary, court documents said.

A physician determined the tremors would not prevent him from continuing work on the bomb squad. But the physician suggested a neurological exam, which Pickard claims he paid for. On Dec. 10, a neurologist found no reason why the tremors would cause problems.

Pickard resumed work at the Homeland Security office after the evaluations on Jan. 7, 2014.

The city of Tucson contended that the fitness evaluation was due to the spill and not because of a perceived disability. They also claimed the move was caused by several reports “independent of Sgt. Devine’s comments” of a possible safety hazard, court documents say.

The city also said having an employee transport Pickard to the evaluations is standard procedure of the city’s Human Resources Workers Compensation division, the documents said.

Judge Collins said the city’s reference to Police Department policy was evidence the fitness exam could be ordered, and it was reasonable application of the policy.

ADDITIONAL RETALIATION
Pickard claimed he faced retaliatory actions not only by being transported by another employee to the evaluations but also by having to tell colleagues about the reason for his transfer. It was determined that “embarrassment and harm to reputation” were not adverse employment actions, the court document said.

In the lawsuit, he also accused Devine of not providing the same overtime opportunities that were offered to other members when he was promoted to the bomb squad back in 2008. Those claims were also dismissed.

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