Harris County police officer alleges he was wrongfully terminated after suffering stroke

By John Severance | Jul 26, 2017

HOUSTON – A Harris County police officer who claimed he was dishonorably discharged and terminated has filed suit against the county and several individuals.

HOUSTON – A Harris County police officer who claimed he was dishonorably discharged and terminated has filed suit against the county and several individuals.

The case was filed in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas on June 23.

The plaintiff in the case is Rolan Rivera, a licensed peace officer since 1980 and who had been working for Precinct 2 since 1996. Rivera, born in 1952, was the division field training officer and worked in the Criminal Warrants Division at the time of his termination.

Defendants listed in the case include Harris County, Harris County Precinct 2, Christopher Diaz, Jerry Luman, Norman Verbosky and David Williams.

In his suit, Rivera claims there were violations the Family Medical Leave Act, discrimination based on disability under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Hostile Work Environment, retaliation under FMLA and the ADA, termination without due process and Intentional Infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy and wrongful termination.

According to the complaint, Rivera suffered a stroke on April 27, 2015, and was in the hospital for five days

Rivera submitted the FMLA paperwork to Williams, his supervisor, on May 12, 2015. Doctors said that Rivera could go back to work but it had to be only "light duty," the suit states.

Later that day, the suit states Williams called Rivera into his office and instructed him as per precinct policy that he would have to go home and use his vacation, sick and any saved overtime until he received a full release from his doctor

The complaint said, "employees similarly situated as Mr. Rivera, who are full-time employees of Harris County, who work in other Constable Precincts in Harris County and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office receive the benefits of FMLA without retribution."

The suit states that Rivera then went to the county human resources office and explained the situation and complained about his treatment. He alleges he gave the office all the paperwork and was told it would be investigated.

On May 28, Rivera was cleared by his doctor to return to full duty and gave his release letter to Williams on June 1.

Later that day, Rivera was called into Williams’ office and was allegedly told the police department would not honor his release letter and they ordered Rivera to sign and execute a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act form so they could access his medical records.

Rivera said he would not sign the form and was told that he could not come back to work until his medical records were released, according to the complaint.

The complaint said the police command until made numerous inquiries to the doctor’s office about the records but they were not released.

Rivera made another trip to HR and the department assured Rivera that it was illegal for Williams to demand medical records and order him to sign a HIPAA form.

On June 18, the human resources department contacted Rivera and told him it was OK to come back to work.

That same day, Williams met with Deputy John Ricarte, who provided a report to a February 2015 incident involving Rivera and an accidental discharge of a gun.

The complaint said, "the original investigation was closed and punishment was accessed to Mr. Rivera previously. Lt. Williams instructed Deputy Ricarte to write a supplement concerning the February incident."

The next week, Rivera contacted police command and was told that Williams had reviewed the February report and based on an internal investigation, Rivera was terminated. In addition, Rivera also was dishonorably discharged by the county.

Rivera returned to human resources and complained of his termination.

After more back and forth, Rivera completed retirement paperwork and he said he no longer could work in a hostile work environment, according to the complaint.

Rivera filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Commission of Human Rights Act for discrimination based on disability, hostile work environment and retaliation. He later received a right to sue letter from the EEOC.

The complaint said, "Due to the status of dishonorably discharged given to him by Precinct 2 and Constable Diaz, Mr. Rivera has been unable to find employment in law enforcement. Due to his termination, Mr. Rivera has also been barred with doing any of the part time jobs he had been doing before the termination."

Filing the suit for Rivera was Houston attorney Robin E. McIlhenny.

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