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Former police officer sues Hutchinson

The Hutchinson News - 12/22/2018

Dec. 22--A former Hutchinson Police Department officer is charging the city of Hutchinson with employment discrimination and retaliation.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Topeka, Devin Berman said he was open with the city and the department about his disability, Tourette's syndrome, when they decided to hire him in late 2013. However, he claims, he "quickly began experiencing acts of discrimination based on his disability."

He "was incessantly made fun of at work by other employees in ways such as name-calling, mimicking, and being compared to disabled individuals, such as individuals with autism. No adverse action was taken against the employees for these actions and these actions continued throughout Devin's employment, even after complaints were made by Devin to his supervisors," the suit claims.

He was denied advancement and opportunities to move up in the department because of his disability, the suit charges.

It also maintains:

* He threatened to sue Hutchinson Police Department for discrimination and thereafter received a poor performance review and was denied a raise at his annual review in February 2017.

* He later noticed omissions and embellishments on his review by a sergeant in the department, which Berman believed contributed to the absence of a pay raise.

* He received his first disciplinary write-up within the department on Sept. 20, 2017, for something that occurred Aug. 28, 2017, the same day that he turned in a complaint of discrimination to the captain of the Hutchinson Police Department.

The suit states that Berman "was forced to terminate his employment" here and the write-ups he received have affected his ability to obtain employment as a police officer elsewhere.

Hutchinson City Manager John Deardoff said Friday that Berman left on his own -- "it was his decision" -- and his last day on the job was Jan. 7, 2018. Deardoff declined to comment on the pending lawsuit. The city's legal response is expected to be filed in January.

Former Hutchinson Police Chief Dick Heitschmidt, who retired in the summer of 2018, was in charge of the department during Berman's employment.

Before filing the federal lawsuit, Berman claims he filed an Americans with Disabilities Act claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and exhausted his administrative remedies.

He is seeking an amount in excess of $75,000 and has requested a trial by jury in Topeka. Larry Michel, with Kennedy Berkley Yarnevich & Williamson, Salina, is representing Berman.

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(c)2018 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)

Visit The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.) at www.hutchnews.com

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