Fired Decatur cop sues, saying he lost job due to disability

A former Decatur police officer is fighting to get his job back after he claims he was fired for having a disability and denied proper accommodations to do his tasks, according to a lawsuit filed last week in the United States District Court of the Northern District of Georgia. 

Peter Bourne is suing the city of Decatur, alleging they fired him after multiple medical incidents spurred by his mental health disabilities. The city oversees the Decatur Police Department.

“The City will vigorously defend against these claims and looks forward to the opportunity to refute the allegations in court,” city attorney Erika L. Leonard said in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Bourne had worked for the city since 2012. In August 2016, he was admitted to Smyrna mental health facility Ridgeview Institute after an accident stemming from his anxiety, according to the lawsuit. Bourne would return to work two weeks later working the night shift but dozed off due to the side effects of his medication, the lawsuit says. 

He was instructed to go home and the next day he requested to work daytime shifts. 

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The lawsuit alleges when Bourne first asked for the shift change he was told to bring a doctor’s note stating he was unable to work the night shift. When he submitted that note, the lawsuit says, Bourne was told it “was not specific enough” and was instead asked to provide another note detailing how long he would need to work the day shift. 

In the meantime, Bourne was placed on administrative leave until the issue was resolved, the lawsuit claims. He returned to work in December 2016. 

Three months later, when Bourne experienced another medical emergency unrelated to his disability, Decatur city officials ordered him to take the rest of the week off. He was then placed on a monthlong, unpaid leave. 

According to the lawsuit, the city requested Bourne meet with their recommended psychologist before returning to work and was cleared to return to work May 2017. Shortly after the evaluation, Bourne filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Bourne was ultimately fired in December 2017 following two internal affairs investigations, including a year-old complaint filed by a trainee alleging Bourne fell asleep in the passenger seat of a patrol car during the training, according to the lawsuit. The other investigation stemmed from a vehicle search in which Bourne’s supervisor unfairly altered a written report, the lawsuit claims.

Bourne’s attorney Cheryl B. Legare said the firing was retaliation for Bourne filing the EEOC complaint. 

“They started investigating complaints that were a year old and then he got fired,” she told The AJC.  

Bourne is requesting he be reinstated to his old position, a jury trial and monetary compensation for emotional stress, out-of-pocket expenses and attorney fees. 

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Channel 2's Nicole Carr reports.

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