A Baltimore County police officer has filed suit against the county, alleging she was suspended after she refused to comply with unlawful orders to provide her private medical information and submit to mental health treatment.
Heather Flanary returned to full-duty work following a traumatic on-duty incident in 2013, according to her lawsuit, but has since faced a “relentless and escalating course of conduct” by the county and police department despite having been declared fit for duty multiple times after the incident.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Officer Flanary has been and continues to be targeted, harassed and threatened relentlessly with discipline and job loss, after returning successfully from a traumatic incident where she risked her life in the line-of-duty and resumed performance of her job with great commitment and distinction,” the complaint states. “Defendants’ discriminatory acts, illegal medical inquiries, and harassment have caused and continue to cause Officer Flanary great emotional distress and damage to her career.”
Ellen L. Kobler, a Baltimore County spokeswoman, said Thursday the county would not comment on pending litigation.
The 2013 attack did not leave Flanary physically injured but resulted in her partner shooting the attacker to prevent him from injuring her or seizing her weapon, according to the complaint. Flanary and two other officers were off duty for a week following the incident until they were cleared by the department’s contract psychologist to return to their regular patrol duties.
About two months later, Flanary experienced a “stress reaction” while she was at the police firing range, the lawsuit states. As a result, she was suspended, placed on administrative leave and ordered to submit to a fitness for duty evaluation. The contract psychologist deemed her unfit and recommended she engage in therapy and remedial work at the range.
Flanary complied, and her private psychologist later diagnosed her with a mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the complaint. In January 2014, her psychologist told her the county had stopped paying his bills, so she initiated a worker’s compensation claim to continue coverage for her therapy, according to the complaint. She returned to full duty in March 2014 and completed her therapy treatment several months later, the suit states.
Later that year, she received a favorable performance evaluation, and in early 2015, both the department’s psychiatrist and a psychiatrist designated by her worker’s compensation attorney deemed her fit for duty.
The police department opposed Flanary’s worker’s compensation request at a hearing in June 2015 but the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled in her favor. But several months later, “out of the blue,” she was ordered to again submit to a fitness-for-duty examination, the lawsuit states. Flanary complied, fearing discipline if she disobeyed, despite knowing there was no basis for the “highly intrusive, stigmatizing” request, the suit states.
Flanary was declared fit for duty, but the county’s human resources office in November served her with an order from the county police chief requiring her to comply with certain recommendations by the department’s psychologist, including that she continue to attend therapy, the suit states.
Flanary acknowledged receiving the order but refused to authorize the department’s psychologist to discuss her treatment with her private therapist.
In January, the county ordered Flanary to comply with six mandatory conditions to continue work as a full-duty police officer. The conditions included providing contact information for her private therapist, as well as authorizing the therapist to give the county confidential medical information.
When Flanary refused to provide anything other than a letter confirming she had attended therapy sessions, she was assigned to desk duty, according to the complaint.
Flanary filed suit for emergency injunctive relief in February, and a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge entered a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the department’s orders. She was assigned back to patrol the next day but was returned to desk duty once another judge dissolved the restraining order.
In August, she was suspended and assigned to civilian administrative duties.
The lawsuit seeks $400,000 in compensatory damages, as well as an injunction lifting the suspension, preventing the county from conducting further medical inquiries of Flanary related to the 2013 incident and preventing the county from compelling treatment as a condition of employment or full duty status.
Kathleen Cahill, a Towson solo practitioner representing Flanary, declined to comment Thursday.
The case is Heather Flanary v. Baltimore County et al., 1:16-cv-03422-CCB.
Motion for Preliminary Injunction Complaint and Demand for Trial