Sick Of Their Jobs

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"We've worked so hard in the City of Mesa at being efficient, that we're not able to operate worth a damn, if that makes any sense," says Moore, who retired two months ago after nearly two decades with the department. "In my opinion, those women were injured every bit in the line of duty as Sam Austin, our sergeant who got shot in the face a long time ago. They created a job for Sam, and they should have. And they should be able to adapt to the problems that these women have. But someone in the city got stubborn--I think that's what happened. And I think it stinks."
That's what attorney Kelly Hocker wants to hear.
"The City of Mesa retaliated against these ladies for using their workers' compensation rights," Hocker says. "I don't think the city was out to get anybody. I think it's a failure to understand the right of employees under the law. In this instance, efficiency prevailed over humanity."
Both Hocker and assistant Mesa city attorney Charlie Hover agree that what constitutes "reasonable accommodation" is central to the three women's cases.

"`Reasonable accommodation' is a tough issue because it's so emotional," Hover says. "You are dealing with good people that you have to take action against because it's the law. It becomes an us-against-them thing, with no happy solution. It's a balancing act that our managers and supervisors don't take lightly. But the bottom line is you've got to be able `reasonably' to do your job."
The three women have filed separate complaints against the City of Mesa with the Arizona Civil Rights Commission. Lawsuits, everyone agrees, are likely.

"These are difficult cases, with plenty of room for debate," Charlie Hover says. "The provisions for handicapped people and `reasonable accommodation' have only been law for less than twenty years, and there's already a tremendous body of case law. It wouldn't surprise me to see lawsuits out of these cases."
Darryleen Kelley says she's feeling better physically these days. She says she's looking for a new job because she and her husband are hurting financially. "I don't know everything I was exposed to over there," she says. "How come no one knows anything? I'm never gonna know down the road if I get sick, that the building didn't cause it. I was considered a loyal employee. How would they have treated me if I wasn't loyal? I gave that place ten years of my life, and I'm left with nothing."

"It wasn't like we were getting our hair and nails done when this thing happened," Kelley says. "We were at work and we got sick."

Because they are eager to absolve the city of blame, the doctors trace the women's medical problems to everything but their exposure to chemicals.

"She works hard to promote relationships of trust and respect," Kelley's evaluation read. A week later, chemical fumes overcame her.

"Doing a good job will only carry you so far at the Mesa Police Department," says a former Mesa detective.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin