Thomson K-9 officer dismissed

  • Follow Government

A Thomson Police Department K-9 officer who was hired in June was fired Monday.

Ruth Hernandez told The Chronicle on Thursday night that she notified the department of her pregnancy on Feb. 13.

"Two weeks after I told them they came and got my car and dog and gave them to another officer who was certified," she said.

She said she had no further contact with Police Chief Joseph D. Nelson until Monday, when she was called to a meeting at city hall.

"The chief said, 'We can't find a position for you, you are terminated,'" Hernandez said. "I signed the paperwork and got up and left. I didn't know what to say."

City attorney Jimmy Plunkett confirmed Hernandez was fired but said she gave city officials a note from a doctor that said she would not be able to resume her job until late November.

"Based on that, we don't have a job for her," Plunkett said. "It's very unfortunate. We've got to protect the citizens of Thomson."

Nelson was out of the office Thursday afternoon and could not be reached.

"Basically they terminated me because I was pregnant," Hernandez said. "I would have been fine with a leave."

City officials would not release Hernandez's personnel file or letter of termination until 10 days from the date the action was taken, Plunkett said. If there is an appeal, that would add another 10 days, he said.

No appeal had been filed by Thursday "to my knowledge," Plunkett said.

If Hernandez appealed, a ruling would be made by City Administrator Don Powers, Mayor Kenneth Usry said. Powers would have the option of deferring to the city council, the mayor said.

Usry said the patrol position had to be filled to protect the people of Thomson. "We need someone who can make arrests," he said. "We have a responsibility to the citizens of Thomson to patrol the streets."

"Our attorneys worked with Georgia Municipal Association attorneys to make sure the department did not violate the law," he said. "It ran due process."

Hernandez is the second Thomson Police officer to be fired this month. Cpl. Josh Caston was fired for violation of department policy and insubordination.

Comments (16) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
tonja
0
Points
tonja 03/25/11 - 02:25 am
0
0
i think this is a bunch of

i think this is a bunch of bull if they really wanted to find a postion for her they could have such as officer work and found someone work her shifts such as part-timers, there's also such thing as medical leave act they could have gave her seems to to me they went out of there way to bring her to the department to only get rid of her,either they did not value her as a employee or there's more to this story than being said

usapatriot
0
Points
usapatriot 03/25/11 - 02:37 am
0
0
Maybe all non-patrol postions

Maybe all non-patrol postions are filled. Perhaps, had she continued on patrol duty, been injured during an arrest and lost her unborn child, she could have sued the city for letting her remain on the job.

Open your mind a little more. A job is not guaranteed if you cannot fulfill it. The story said she was hired in Jun 2010. Pregnant 8 mos later. Her job needs to be done for the citizens of Thomson. She was no longer able to perform it to standards. Therefore, someone else needs to do that job for the citizens of Thomson.

I would imagine she can reapply for the job when she is physically capable to perform that job.

Do not confuse "public service" jobs with "public assistance".

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 03/25/11 - 05:31 am
0
0
"Do not confuse "public

"Do not confuse "public service" jobs with "public assistance".....

Well said.

laxkitty16
0
Points
laxkitty16 03/25/11 - 05:39 am
0
0
Yeah... I am a female and a

Yeah... I am a female and a federal police officer. It is a violation of federal law to fire someone because they are pregnant. Cut and dry issue. Family Medical Leave Act... check it out.

storiesihaveread
358
Points
storiesihaveread 03/25/11 - 07:08 am
0
0
I agree FML is there for a

I agree FML is there for a reason. This will not be good if this news made it outside the city of Thompson and the CSRA.

corgimom
33231
Points
corgimom 03/25/11 - 07:21 am
0
0
How shocking, that a woman

How shocking, that a woman would dare to get pregnant.

I wonder, do they fire the male officers that have the temerity to get sick or have surgeries, etc. and take medical leave?

tuffenuf4u
0
Points
tuffenuf4u 03/25/11 - 07:56 am
0
0
You are all missing the boat

You are all missing the boat here. If she provided a note from her doctor stating she would not be able to return to work until November, that would present several problems. First, the Family Medical Leave Act only provides for twelve weeks of unpaid leave, which, iunder the terms of the FMLA, this leave would not have went into effect until after the birth of the baby. I don't know of any corporation, private or public, that can hold an employees job for from March until November, especially since she has only been there since June of last year.I am sure she did not have adquate sick or vacation time to cover this period.
The situation could have probably been handled a little differently. They could have saved face and told her she could reapply for this or a similar position once the baby was born and she was able to return to work. After all, the McDuffie County Sheriff's department has bent over backwards to protect one of their own in the past. Why was she not afforded the same treatment?

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 03/25/11 - 08:08 am
0
0
The Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act only guarantees that an employee may take leave for up to twelve weeks within a twelve month period. And an employer does not have to pay the employee, only retain her position or provide a similar one upon return. To be out of work until late November (as the article states) is quite a bit longer. Many agencies will offer to put a deputy who is pregnant on light duty desk work until just before the due date. Was this not an option? Also, was the doctor's note for a pregnancy related issue, or for something else? It seems that there is more to this story than what is written.

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 03/25/11 - 08:14 am
0
0
Sorry tuffenuf4u, looks like

Sorry tuffenuf4u, looks like you beat me to the punch.

astanleymom
0
Points
astanleymom 03/25/11 - 08:34 am
0
0
First off, FMLA doesn't have

First off, FMLA doesn't have to wait to begin until after the baby is born. There are many women who wind up taking some of it early due to complications in pregnancy. That being said, it is only for 12 weeks so technically, they wouldn't have to hold her job after that time. However, they should provide reasonable accommodations. It is my understanding that there was a desk job that she would have qualified for that closed just a few days before she was terminated (per the NBC 26 website). You mean to tell me that they knew about this and waited to terminate her after the job posting closed? It sounds very fishy and looks VERY BAD on the City of Thomson. It doesn't sound like they tried very hard at all!

tignolly
0
Points
tignolly 03/25/11 - 09:52 am
0
0
Not a one of you knows what

Not a one of you knows what EXACTLY happened only what the news has told you.
My thoughts on it are this though, if she was hired last year in June and decided that not even a year from being hired she is going to get pregnant. Shame on her!
She does not have much respect for her job or herself to know what kind of job she has and put herself and her unborn child in danger.
I realize Thomson is not Augusta or Atlanta, but there have been some situations that I know I would not have wanted my daughters to be in while they were pregnant if they had chosen law enforcement as their desired line of work.
The Chief COULD have possibly found another position for her, but why should he? Because she didn't do for herself, he should do for her? She should have approached him ahead of time and told him that she was planning on having a child and if this were not planned then, that is another conversation all together.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 03/25/11 - 11:03 am
0
0
This may be ruled a violation

This may be ruled a violation of the Family Leave Act, maybe, maybe not. Communities need to insert a clause in their contract with ALL females that if they get pregnant for a period of time after hire that they are in violation of that specific clause of their contract. They MIGHT have standing to do this. I haven't read her contract yet so i'm going to shut up now until one of my attorney's forwards me a copy.

mable8
2
Points
mable8 03/25/11 - 11:56 am
0
0
FMLA protects your job for a

FMLA protects your job for a very limited time; after that time is used and there is "no available position" where the individual could work through the imposed medical restrictions, then the employer can dismiss the individual. In ALMOST ALL cases, there is a job the individual could be given and in ALMOST ALL cases, employers prefer NOT to give that position to the incumbent worker. Usually it is because the individual would continue at their same pay rate, but by hiring off the street, entry level wages prevail and the employers are going to put someone in an open postion at a lesser rate of pay rather than an employee who has the experience and is at the higher pay grade. This is done all the time so the news of the officer's dismissal is not surprising.

laxkitty16
0
Points
laxkitty16 03/25/11 - 03:27 pm
0
0
Pregnant women including

Pregnant women including those that work are provided certain protections under the law during pregnancy. While these laws don't guarantee paid maternity leave or insurance reimbursement during pregnancy, they will provide discrimination protection and in many cases allow women unpaid leave during pregnancy. The two primary laws that protect women during pregnancy include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family Medical Leave Act or FMLA.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act established in 1978 requires employers with 15 or more employees to treat pregnant workers as equally as they would employees with other medical disabilities. The act prevents employers from discriminating against pregnant women on the basis of their pregnancy or childbirth, or any disability that may result from childbirth or pregnancy. It also guarantees women the right to equal treatment of disabilities, of which pregnancy qualifies. Birth or medical related injuries or conditions are also covered under the act.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prevents an employer from firing a pregnant women based on her pregnancy or pregnancy related illness. The act also prevents the employer from forcing a mandatory pregnancy or maternity leave on any employee. Pregnant women are afforded the same rights as anyone else with a medical related disability. This means your employer must grant you the right to modified work tasks or disability leave with or without pay based on your organization's policies. Pregnant women are afforded the opportunity to work as long as they are able to while on the job, and their jobs are protected during maternity leave under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Pregnant women may also accrue seniority or vacation while pregnant and remain eligible for other formal perks such as bonuses or pay increases. These stipulations are valid only if your employer provides security and benefits to all employees. It does not require that the employer provide these benefits only to pregnant women.

I work as a police officer for the federal government and it would be unheard of for a woman to lose her position once pregnant. A time when a working woman needs her jobs and benefits the most is not a time for an employer to decide to cut her loose. The investment that is made by an agency for police training is significant and it amazes me that they would eliminate her position so quickly just because she will be unable to perform for only 8-9 months. The time and money spent just to train and incoming police officer is between 3-6 months and anywhere from $10,000-$25,000 and K-9 training is significantly more! So they're willing to start from scratch???? This makes absolutely no sense! There has to be more to this story...

corgimom
33231
Points
corgimom 03/25/11 - 07:13 pm
0
0
tuff, if a doctor certifies

tuff, if a doctor certifies that she is disabled and can't work, that's it. It has nothing to do with FMLA.

All she has to do is find ONE case of a sick or disabled employee that they didn't fire but allowed to be off work for several months- and cha-CHING!

_____________________________________

"My thoughts on it are this though, if she was hired last year in June and decided that not even a year from being hired she is going to get pregnant. Shame on her!"

I cannot BELIEVE that people think like this in 2011. Pregnancies have a way of coming unplanned. Perhaps you would think that she should have an abortion instead, because she didn't get pregnant according to your timetable? No, shame on YOU!

kbwwchs
0
Points
kbwwchs 03/29/11 - 01:54 am
0
0
There is wayyy more to this

There is wayyy more to this story....not the only reason she was fired..Any law enforcement center are aware that firing someone being pregnant would bring a lawsuit. Thats why the chief wouldn't respond on camera cause if he stated what she was really fired for it would make her look bad...just saying...

Back to Top

Top headlines

SRS shipments halted until 2016

Savannah River Site can't resume shipments of Cold War nuclear waste materials to an underground repository in New Mexico until at least 2016 when the federal government reopens the facility to ...
Search Augusta jobs