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Kentucky Police Chief Pursuing Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

1066864_police_cruiser.jpgFormer Harrodsburg, Kentucky Police Chief, Rodney Harlow, was terminated by the city commission at the end of 2011. Mr. Harlow filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city’s mayor and commissioners. He also filed a motion for temporary injunction, which the judge denied earlier this week. The temporary injunction would have allowed Mr. Harlow to maintain his position as police chief during the litigation, but because of the judge’s denial, he has been removed, pending the outcome of the suit.

Mr. Harlow’s lawsuit is based largely on a Kentucky state law called the policeman’s bill of rights. This law requires officers to be notified of complaints and entitles them to a hearing and an opportunity to appeal a termination related to a specific charge. Allegedly, complaints were made to a couple of the commissioners, but the information was never relayed to Mr. Harlow, so he was never given the opportunity to respond to them. Counsel for the city contends that Mr. Harlow was not covered by this law because he was a part-time employee and the law only applies to full-time employees. Mr. Harlow’s attorney believes he is covered because the law pertains to any police department that receives assistance from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program, which Harrodsburg does. Also, several employees have stated that Mr. Harlow worked 40-60 hours per week, which constitutes full-time hours.

Both compensatory and punitive damages have been requested in the lawsuit. Compensatory damages cover losses not associated with pay. In Mr. Harlow’s case the compensatory damages are being sought for the negative effects this firing may have on his professional reputation. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendants and hopefully deter them from acting in the same manner in the future. Punitive damages can only be awarded if it is determined the defendants acted maliciously, which Mr. Harlow alleges both the mayor and the commissioners did in this case. He is also seeking lost wages and wishes to be reinstated to his position as police chief.

Being fired from a job can leave a person shocked and emotionally shaken. The Indiana and Kentucky employment law attorneys at Miller & Falkner have helped countless individuals through this difficult time. They offer this list of actions to take if you feel you have been wrongfully terminated:

  1. Don’t retaliate against your employer. After being demoted or terminated, feelings are often very raw and many employees feel hurt or betrayed. While these feelings are very valid, acting on these emotions and lashing out at your former employer will not help.
  2. Contact an employment law attorney at Miller & Falkner for advice regarding your potential claim.
  3. If you have an employment contract, locate a copy of this contract to share with your attorney.
  4. Inquire about the reasons for your termination and who decided to terminate you.
  5. Through your attorney, request and negotiate a severance package.
  6. Follow all oral agreements regarding your termination and severance with a written confirmation.
  7. Do not allow yourself to be intimidated. Do not agree to sign documents until you have had the opportunity to thoroughly review them.
  8. Return any and all company property in your possession to your employer and follow any other common post-employment procedures.

While these steps are a helpful guideline, be sure to work with an attorney to ensure you are taking the right approach. Having an experienced third party involved will help to separate the emotional aspect of the situation from the business portion that needs to be handled professionally and legally.

Sources:

Harrodsburg police chief sues city over impending termination; kentucky.com; Greg Kocher; December 22, 2011
Former Harrodsburg police chief may proceed with lawsuit, judge says; kentucky.com; Greg Kocher; January 10, 2012
Former police chief sues Harrodsburg; Central Kentucky News; Todd Kleffman; December 21, 2011