A former sergeant with the Wichita State Police Department is suing the university for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and retaliating against him for raising concerns about racial discrimination in the police department.
Garret Moyer was terminated from his position in August of 2017 after he was deemed “not capable of performing” his administrative duties. Moyer, who began working with the university police department in 2000, had been diagnosed with dyslexia and relied on a read-aloud software program to help him with his work. After his termination, Moyer says he sought opinions from two outside psychologists who declared him fit for duty.
Moyer, who could not be reached for comment, claims in the court filing that his termination came as a direct result of discussing racial discrimination with a university administrator in what he thought was a confidential meeting.
The complaint, filed in July with the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, alleges that within three business days of finding out that Moyer spoke with a university administrator, former WSU Police Chief Sara Morris arranged for Moyer to take a fitness-for-duty psychological evaluation.
The complaint states that in December of 2016, Demario Smith, a black police officer who at the time worked for the university police department, filed a complaint that his supervisors and Chief Morris were being racially discriminatory toward him. In an official response filed with the court, WSU claims it “lacks sufficient information to admit or deny” that Smith filed a discrimination complaint.
After the alleged complaint was filed, Moyer says Chief Morris told him WSU President John Bardo gave her “one more chance” to get things right or she would be dismissed. Morris retired from her position as police chief in September of 2017.
At a meeting discussing Morris’s risk of termination, Moyer claims that Sgt. Chad Agnew “put a picture of an African-American Lieutenant from the Wichita Police Department on an office computer screen and said that if Chief Morris was terminated and this woman was hired, it was ‘going to get a little dark in here.’”
In the complaint, Moyer says Morris asked him to “watch” Officer Smith — implying Moyer should write him up as often as possible so that he could be disciplined and eventually terminated.
Moyer claims that on Jan. 31, 2017, he voiced his concerns about racial discrimination to Linnea Glenmaye, vice president of academic affairs, but did not take her advice of filing a complaint for fear of retaliation. Moyer states that Glenmaye assured him their meeting was confidential, but later disclosed their conversation with Chief Morris.
Moyer claims that on April 6, 2017, Chief Morris confronted him about his prior conversation with Glenmaye. He claims he explained to Morris why he thought members of the department — specifically Morris, Sgt. Agnew, and Capt. Cory Herl — had engaged in discriminatory behavior against Officer Smith.
At the end of their meeting, Moyer claims that Morris said, “I know what I got to do.”
WSU admits in the court filing that on April 10, Morris emailed Moyer, informing him that he was scheduled to meet with a representative from HR the next day as “a follow-up” of their “conversation and the events on January 31, 2017” — the day Moyer says he raised concerns of racial discrimination with Glenmaye.
The next day, Moyer met with the HR representative, Marcie Holsteen, who allegedly asked him about his conversation with Glenmaye before informing him that Chief Morris had expressed concerns about his mental health.
Holsteen allegedly proceeded to administer a fitness-for-duty evaluation on Moyer. The complaint states she “had no prior experience administering” such evaluations. After completing the evaluation, Moyer says he was interviewed by Dr. David Bowman, a licensed psychologist.
The university admits that Moyer was removed from his sergeant position and placed on administrative leave on April 18, after Dr. Bowman released a report stating that Moyer “seemed oblivious as to how his behavior has deteriorated workplace relationships and trust.”
“Given the chronic nature of [Moyer’s] personality traits and the fact that he has long sought out mental health treatment, it is unlikely that his stability & fitness will significantly improve in the future,” Dr. Bowman’s report states
The university admits that Moyer was diagnosed with dyslexia but states that he “is not a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA.” The ADA defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”
WSU General Counsel David Moses said it’s a common defense to deny that a terminated employee suffered from a disability.
“Whenever an employee claims that they have a disability and they’ve been discharged because of that disability, it is not uncommon that a defense that you initially raise at the front end is that it’s not a disability,” Moses said.
In the court filing, WSU also denies it was aware that Moyer required accommodations for his disabilities.
In March 2017, a month before Moyer was placed on leave, The Sunflower published a feature story with the headline “Dyslexia difficulties don’t hinder UPD administrative sergeant.” The article describes how Moyer learned to combat his dyslexia by making use of software programs and audiobooks to complete his work and pursue his master’s degree in criminal justice. Moyer completed his degree this May, nine months after his termination from the university police department.
In the article, Moyer states that Chief Morris gave him the idea to pursue his master’s degree. Morris is quoted in the article.
“I used to talk to [Moyer] about quality control and reviewing his paperwork better to find spelling and grammar errors,” Morris said. “When we talked about the dyslexia, we started looking for resources available to help.”
Morris went on to say Moyer’s use of software programs greatly improved his confidence.
“As a result (of the programs), you could see his confidence building and then he just took off and started pursuing his master’s degree,” Morris said.
On April 19, after being placed on administrative leave, Moyer met with Jane Link, director of WSU’s Equal Opportunity Office. Moyer complained that Morris was behaving discriminatorily and that she failed to accommodate his disabilities when he was given a fitness-for-duty evaluation.
WSU admits that Link conducted an investigation in which she interviewed both Moyer and Chief Morris. Link concluded that the failure to accommodate for Moyer’s disability during the evaluation was a policy violation. As a consequence of the violation, a copy of the outcome letter was placed in Chief Morris’s personnel file as a written reprimand.
On July 11, Moyer underwent another fit-for-duty evaluation. The evaluation was administered by Dr. Bruce Nystrom, who Moyer claims openly admitted that he served on the Wichita Police Department with Morris.
In a written report, Dr. Nystrom wrote that while Moyer “likely is quite fit to perform other law enforcement duties, he is not capable of performing the current administrative requirements in a competent manner.”
On August 31, Moyer was terminated from the WSU police department.
In the next two months, Moyer claims he sought out two independent opinions from licensed psychologists, who found him fit for duty.
Moyer claims that as a result of his termination, “his reputation as a faithful, hardworking, loyal and diligent employee has been irreparably damaged.” Moyer is suing WSU for more than $75,000.
Kansas is an employment-at-will state, meaning the employer or employee may end the employment relationship at any time, for any or no reason, as long as no agreement stating otherwise exists. Discrimination statutes make exemptions for cases in which employment is terminated based on a number of factors, including an employee’s disabilities.
Moses said WSU has roughly 3,000 employees.
“It is not unusual for there to be an employee that thinks they should have been treated differently, and that’s why we have a court system,” Moses said.
Moses said WSU outsourced the case to the Topeka-based law firm Fisher Patterson Sayler & Smith.
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