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Maine Jailer Settles Federal Discrimination Suit
In March 2009, Hancock County Jail guard Brad Ewing suffered a back injury during a scuffle with a prisoner. Ewing was placed on medical leave the next day and he underwent back surgery in April 2009.
A June 2009 automobile accident delayed Ewing's return to work. During an October 6, 2009 meeting, Hancock County Commissioners refused to allow reasonable accommodations for Ewing's return to work and insisted that he be prepared to fulfill all of his assigned duties. Hancock officials remember the meeting differently, claiming that Ewing was allowed to return to work one month after the meeting, upon his assurance that he was able to fulfill all of his guard duties.
Soon after his return to work in November 2009, Ewing was ordered to work a 6-hour overtime shift to attend an unarmed self-defense training session, at the end of his regular 12-hour shift. Ewing objected to the requirement that he work 18 hours straight and said he would likely not actively participate in the training session.
Ewing was suspended without pay by Sheriff William Clark, at the end of November 2009, for his inability to fulfill his alleged October 6, 2009 assurances that he could return to work without restrictions.
Ewing's suspension lasted eight months, until he was able to return to work and perform all of his duties in July 2010.
In October 2010, Ewing filed a discrimination complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, claiming that he was illegally suspended. He later amended his complaint to allege that Clark retaliated against him to force him to resign.
Ewing eventually brought federal suit against Clark and other jail administrators, alleging that the County violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to make "reasonable accommodations" for Ewing's disability, including job restructuring, modified work schedules, reassignment or other adjustments. He also claimed that Defendants violated the Maine's Human Rights Act and Whistleblowers Protection Act. He sought compensatory and punitive damages, back wages, reinstatement and attorney's fees.
Defendants denied that Ewing ever requested any "reasonable accommodations" or that they ever discriminated against him. Despite their denials, however, in December 2011, Defendants agreed to settle Ewing's suit, according to defense attorney John Wall. Terms of the settlement were kept confidential.
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