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Morris County New Jersey lawsuit: Police refused to fire gun while pregnant

New Jersey civil rights attorney alert: Officer sues after refusal to fire gun while pregnant results in time off, disability pay.

07/13/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks

Morris County, NJ – A Morris County Superior Court Judge will decide whether or not to dismiss a lawsuit filed in 2008 against the Morris County Sheriff’s Office that alleges violations of the state’s Law Against Discrimination and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as reported by The Daily Record. The decision is set to be made July 23, 2010.

Sergeant Moire Reilly filed a lawsuit against the department after a series of events that stemmed from her unwillingness to fire her gun while pregnant.

Reilly claims the sheriff’s office failed to adequately accommodate her after she learned that she was pregnant in October 2006. The department claims Reilly wanted a special exemption from firearm qualification rules and office policies.

If the judge decides to allow the suit, the trial could begin in September.

Reilly joined the department in 1998. She is now 35 and makes $105,541 annually. As all officers must “qualify,” or meet firearms proficiency standards twice a year, her unwillingness to discharge her weapon while pregnant posed a problem with departmental policy. She had qualified once already for the year, but balked at performing the second test.

Since she did not meet the quota, the sheriff’s office put her on “alternate duty” on January 1, 2007. The change in position meant her job duties were limited and she could not carry a gun. Under county policy, alternate duty is only allowed for 60 days. Reilly’s request for an extension of the duty was denied.

Reilly’s lawsuit states she “could not return to full duty without the risk of harm to her unborn child and/or herself.”

She left work on March 2, 2007 and was forced to collect disability rather than receive her full salary.

Reilly gave birth May 2, 2007 and returned to work in August that year. She qualified almost immediately.

She claims the dispute over the situation has cost her friends in the department. She described the emotional ordeal as “a massive roller coaster.”

The sheriff’s office contends it bent over backward for Reilly. It argues pregnancy is not considered as a disability by law, and though her personal physician recommended she hold off qualifying until her child was born, no doctor ever stated it would endanger the baby.

The county also claims Reilly rejected all suggestions of qualifying through shooting outdoors to minimize sound, wearing an abdomen muff, using lead-free ammunition and having another officer load and unload her weapon.

The county also points out it offered her a temporary clerical position with the sheriff’s office after her alternate duty assignment expired. Court records indicate Reilly refused the position.

While Reilly claims at least five other officers in the department were treated in a more favorable manner than she was while pregnant, the county claims consistency.

A counsel for the sheriff’s office explained, “By refusing to carve out an exception for (Reilly) as a pregnant woman, defendants responded nondiscriminatorily by applying the same policies it does to all officers.”

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