Fired Philly Police lieutenant files wrongful termination complaint

By Jon Campisi | Oct 28, 2011

A former Philadelphia police lieutenant who claims the city fired him after more than four decades of employment after a doctor determined job-related injuries would be enough to prevent him from carrying out his professional duties has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia attorney Jeffrey Campolongo filed the civil action Oct. 27 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Orlando DeStefano, who was first hired as a Philadelphia police officer back in April 1965.

According to the complaint, DeStefano suffered injuries to his knees, ankles and spine in the spring of 2008 after he was accidentally tripped by crime scene tape.

After having surgery, and undergoing physical therapy sessions for about a year, DeStefano returned to work with an OK from a medical doctor, the suit states.

After returning to his job, DeStefano had to work in a limited duty capacity, since his body wasn’t the same as it was prior to sustaining his injury, the suit states.

“The job functions that Plaintiff was performing while on limited duty were necessary functions that must be completed by Police Officers, or, in this case, by a Lieutenant,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff was very capable of remaining in this employment indefinitely, as he could perform all of the essential functions of this position with or without accommodation.”

On April 20, 2010, the suit states, the city’s medical director made a “determination of service-connected disability,” wherein she stated that the plaintiff was “permanently and partially disabled from returning to work as a police officer.”

Later that same day, DeStefano, “without any interactive process,” was informed that he was being separated from his employment based upon a determination from the medical director that he was disabled, and therefore unable to return to his pre-injury position, the lawsuit states.

DeStefano’s termination was effective May 30, 2010.

The lawsuit claims that at the time of his termination, there were numerous other positions within the police department that would have been more appropriate for DeStefano, and that he would have been qualified to perform.

Furthermore, the complaint alleges that despite being terminated because of a disability, DeStefano was not recommended for a “Service Connected Disability Pension.”

The lawsuit contains counts of disability discrimination and intentional discrimination.

DeStefano seeks declaratory judgment that the city was wrong for terminating him from his job, back pay, retroactive pension benefits, interest, seniority for time lost, and other emoluments of employment to which he would have been entitled had it not been for the defendant’s discriminatory practices.

He also demands unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and other court relief.

A jury trial is being demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06715-RB.

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