Rowlett Sued Because It May Have Fired a Trainee Cop for Allergy

640px-Large_Cayenne.jpg
André Karwath
The (alleged) root of all this.

Of all the things that one thinks might derail a trainee cop's trip through the academy, an allergy isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Mishandling a weapon or failing a drug test, sure, but not an allergy. But in a lawsuit filed in Dallas County late last week, Rachel Figura says that her allergy to cayenne pepper -- or the fact that she was a woman, one or the other -- is what led to her firing by the Rowlett police.

Figura says cayenne pepper is one of the primary ingredients in mace, an important tool in a modern cop's arsenal. She was still able to fully perform her duties, she says, she just sat out drills involving being sprayed with the pepper spray, from which her allergy would cause non-life threatening respiratory distress. (Her lawsuit specifies she's allergic to cayenne and uses "mace" and "pepper spray" interchangeably. MACE is a brand name belonging to Mace Security International Inc., makers of self-defense products that contain capsicum derived from peppers, though the company's website doesn't specify exactly which peppers it uses in its recipe.)

Figura says Rowlett Police Chief William M. Brodnax asked for information regarding the allergy, and she provided him with documentation confirming the sensitivity but saying she could still perform the essential duties of her position.

Figura says the police chief said she was dishonest about her allergy and later fired her. She is suing the department for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We spoke with Rowlett City Secretary Laura Hallmark late Friday afternoon. She couldn't give Unfair Park a comment because the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

Figura Lawsuit

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62 comments
jeannieelcombealn
jeannieelcombealn

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MissMacy
MissMacy

I don't understand why this is a big deal to the police department. Instead of pepper-spraying her suspects she can just shoot them instead.

noamischosen
noamischosen

If she has an allergy that endangers her health when exposed to cayenne, she is wholly unsuited for this line of work. Ive joked that Ive been pepper sprayed once in the Academy and a dozen times accidentally. Aerosol OC hangs in the air when sprayed. She is going to inhale it moving in to handcuff someone that has been sprayed, even if someone else did it. If the guy resists handcuffing, she is going to get it all over her skin and clothes cuffing him. She will not and should not have the option of just standing around while another officer tussles with someone. That is not a reasonable accommodation.


If she doesn't have an allergy that endangers her health, she shouldn't have claimed a pass on the spray in the Academy.


She doesn't get to have it both ways.  

lawm112
lawm112

A Probationary employee who cannot complete the training phase - adiós

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

She said she had an "allergy", a specific medical condition.  The medical report clearly states that she was "sensitive" to pepper spray- as is every other human on the planet.  She lied.


Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

If here allergy is debilitating enough to make it where she needs to avoid the pepper spray exercise, she shouldn't be a cop. Quite often, due to the vagaries of air currents, you will inhale some when you use it on another person. Since this is one of the primary less-lethal options available to police officers, this means she is unable to use a vital tool.


James080
James080

Cedar pollen makes me sneeze. Guess I have a disability. Who knew? 


holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Rowlett's gonna lose this one.  Unless they can come up with another reason for firing her.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@MissMacy 

She'll just say she's "allergic" to loud noises, too - and then to prove it, she'll get a doctor to certify that she has ears.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@noamischosen 

This.

A buddy of mine who works patrol gets a snoot full of OC spray on a weekly basis.  Just part of the job when arresting thugs and nutters on the bad side of town.

Hopefuly Pepper-Chick will not get any $$$ from the citizens.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs 

an "allergy" is defined as being "sensitive to an allergen".

you're wrong.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@Tim.Covington Plus, I think that officers should experience the impact of these non-lethal weapons (pepper spray, tasers) before they use them on others.  

doublecheese
doublecheese

@holmantx How do you figure?  She refused to take part in mandatory training using one of the most used tools in law enforcement.  All because she'd have non-life threatening respiratory distress to pepper spray...like everyone else on earth who's been sprayed with it.


Besides that, even if her "allergy" has merit, why should they accept someone with a physical disability?  There are a lot of physical disabilities that would disqualify a person from police work.

lftay
lftay

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz If they had a problem with black women, they wouldn't have hired her in the first place.  The fact is, cops use mace with some regularity, and having a cop who is overly "sensitive" to mace is a hazard to herself, other cops, and the general public.  That said, Rowlett could lose this case, because our system is so screwed up (thanks to all the idiots of both parties in Congress).

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Myrna's "allergic" to guns

It must be hard for Myrna to live in Texas

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@mavdog @bvckvs actually, "An allergy is a chronic condition involving an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen."  Nearly everyone will have a sensitive reaction to pepper spray, that's sort of the whole purpose of using it for law enforcement.  He's not wrong, your selective definition of allergy is though.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@doublecheese 

if you read the complaint another Department employee, who remains employed by the department and who cannot come into contact with the spray, was identified. that's an uh oh....

worse for them that employee is a male, so there is also a charge of sex discrimination.

on the surface it doesn't look good for the City of Rowlett.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@doublecheese @holmantx

Allergies are a covered malady under ADA and the cities are terrified of running afoul of that law.  All employers are.  Hell, alcoholism is a covered disease..

Broadnax should have let her sit out of the training exercises where the trainees were sprayed to acclimatize them for direct experience.  Un-necessary.  There is going to have to be something else in her record to get her bounced.

otherwise Rowlett cashes her out.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@RTGolden1 

sorry, using the language in the report and the complaint to label the complainant "a liar" for the use of the word "sensitive" is wrong.

one can argue on the relative degree of "sensitive", and if that degree of sensitivity would cause inability to perform the job, yet the use of the word itself does not represent deceit.

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

@holmantx @doublecheese It could easily be argued that being able to safely handle and tolerate small amounts of inhaled pepper spray is a bona fide occupational qualification specific to this line of work.  Anyone not able to do so would be disqualified.  Not sure if that's the argument they'll put forward, but it pops to mind for me and I've watched enough Law and Order episodes to at least hazard a guess.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@holmantx @doublecheese 

The medical report doesn't say she's allergic to pepper spray.  It just says she's sensitive to it.  She lied.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@holmantx @doublecheese I think you really overstate her chances.  But I agree with you they'll find more things in her record to use against her.  Digging up all the dirt when firing someone is standard practice though.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

Not really, Florida has liberal gun laws, and actual beaches.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog @RTGolden1 

Since she sought a diagnosis and didn't get it, it is indeed deceitful of her to continue to say she has an allergy.

She's also a liar because she says she was fired for being a female - even though there's not a shred of evidence to support it, and other females have been allowed on the force currently and for many decades.

Still, you make a good point - perhaps she's just exceptionally stupid and doesn't know what a doctor or an allergy or a diagnosis is.  If that's the case, then the instructors were still correct in sending her dumb, lying ass packing.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs 

Since she sought a diagnosis and didn't get it, it is indeed deceitful of her to continue to say she has an allergy.

and you know what her diagnosis in her Dr.'s files states about her condition because....uh, you don't. what is referenced in the complaint says the Dr agrees she can't handle it. . for all we know she was positively diagnosed.

She's also a liar because she says she was fired for being a female - even though there's not a shred of evidence to support it, and other females have been allowed on the force currently and for many decades.

clearly you did not read the complaint, it ID's by name a male employee with a "sensitivity" to the spray that remains employed.

really, your use of the word "liar" leaves a lot to be desired. like accuracy.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog 

Hell, even her own lawyer qualified the statement by calling it a "perceived" condition.

re:  "it ID's by name a male employee with a "sensitivity" to the spray that remains employed."

He had a legitimate diagnosis from a doctor because of eye surgery.  All the liar had was a self-diagnosis - one that neither her doctor nor her lawyer was willing to stand behind.

Still, as I said before, you may be right that she wasn't lying - that she may just be so stupid that she doesn't know what an allergy, a doctor, or a diagnosis is.  But I don't believe it, and I doubt any judge or jury will, either.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs 

Hell, even her own lawyer qualified the statement by calling it a "perceived" condition.

parsing the words in an attempt to prove yourself? tsk tsk. very bush.very childish.

the complaint says "because of her disability or perceived disability of being allergic to cayenne pepper".

He had a legitimate diagnosis from a doctor because of eye surgery. All the liar had was a self-diagnosis - one that neither her doctor nor her lawyer was willing to stand behind.

Did you miss this fact from the complaint? "Figura provided medical documentation". you are clearly fabricating the claim of "self-diagnosis", or you are just "so stupid" that you don't know what "medical documentation" is? you also pull the claim out of your ass that "neither her doctor nor her lawyer was willing to stand behind" the medical documentation of her condition. there is nothing that shows this claim of yours to be true.

so let's review: so far there is zero evidence Figura was a "liar", and we have 3 instances of you making shit up.

who is the "liar" here? seems it is NOT Figura.....

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog @bvckvs 

re:  "parsing the words in an attempt to prove yourself"

He didn't use the word "perceived" just for the fun of it.  He clearly felt that, after the doctor refused to diagnose an allergy, that her disability was, at best, only "perceived".

re:"Figura provided medical documentation"

Not of an allergy.  She might just as well have produced an x-ray of her ankle as proof of her imaginary illness.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs 

you know, correcting your errors is a full time endeavor.

He didn't use the word "perceived" just for the fun of it. He clearly felt that, after the doctor refused to diagnose an allergy, that her disability was, at best, only "perceived".

as Reagan is famous for saying, "there you go again". first, using your flawed logic, as the attorney wrote "because of her disability" the fact she has a disability is irrefutably established. second, why do you purposely misstate "the doctor refused to diagnose an allergy"??? nothing supports this claim of yours, it is truly your opinion and a total fabrication on your part.

[Medical Documentation] Not of an allergy. She might just as well have produced an x-ray of her ankle as proof of her imaginary illness.

Good grief, again you make shit up. Did you see the documentation? no, you haven't. any statement by the Dr that says she doesn't have an allergy? no, not any. Reasonable people would think any "medical documentation" Figura provided to her employer would support her position or she wouldn't produce it..

this dialogue began because you were quick and eager to label Figura as a "liar". Through the course of the discussion I have laid out why that accusation is not only wrong, but that the charge of deceit is more appropriate for you than she. The more you try to defend your error in judgement the more you are proven to be the guilty party.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog @bvckvs 

re:  "as the attorney wrote 'because of her disability' the fact she has a disability is irrefutably established."

Overlooking, for the moment, your ridiculous belief that lawyers are allergists - what her attorney wrote was "because of her disability or perceived disability". 

He did that because she clearly doesn't have the disability she insists she has.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@mavdog @bvckvs "...as the attorney wrote "because of her disability" the fact she has a disability is irrefutably established."

I may be dense, but how does an attorney writing "because of her disability" irrefutably establish said disability.  I could see that if her doctor had written it, not the attorney.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs 

You established the credibility of the attorney to diagnose by focusing on their writing the word "perceived", now you want to say their credibility doesn't exist for the first portion of the same sentence when they state "her disability"?

bwahahahaha.

case closed. you lose.

a response containing the word "tantrum" (or maybe "tantric", who knows?) in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@RTGolden1

did you miss the preface to that comment "using your flawed logic"?

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog 

re:  "You established the credibility of the attorney to diagnose "

So that's what you think I did, eh?  That's pretty fucking retarded.  That's not just "uninformed" or "foolish".  It goes way beyond that to downright, double-digit, re-tard-ed.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs

well done, nothing I could say better illustrates the lack of thought in your posting. "retarded"?? good grief.

keep up the good work!

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog @bvckvs 

You're getting upset about all kinds of random things.  That's all well and fine - but it doesn't make this woman's "perceived disability" any more real.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@bvckvs

another one! just keep 'em coming, it makes my case that much stronger.

no, I don't get "upset", that's a word that applies to  people who use words like "liar" and "retarded".

and "tantrum", and who misuse "tantric".

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@mavdog 

re:  "it makes my case "

What case?

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