NEW ALBANY — A settlement has been reached in a federal case against the City of New Albany for alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act after an officer's personal medical information was disclosed at a public meeting.
According to an agreement dated Oct. 4, the City agrees to pay $100,000 in compensatory damage to the New Albany Police Department officer for the unlawful disclosure of the information, which is in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The City must also revise its procedures and policies regarding the handling of personal medical information.
The civil complaint, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Sept. 29 in U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana, alleges that the officer's rights were violated when personal information about his medical history — including prescriptions and treatments — were read at a New Albany police merit commission meeting in 2013.
Information regarding the officer's medical background and conditions was also given to the media by the city attorney and merit commission at the time, according to the complaint.
In 2014, the officer filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which found probable cause for an ADA violation. The case was referred to the Department of Justice when the EEOC could not reach conciliation with the parties.
The Department of Justice complaint states that the New Albany police merit commission ordered the officer in 2012 to undergo two medical evaluations, after a leave of absence and request by then-police Chief Sherri Knight for his termination.
The officer's employment was terminated and then reinstated at a 2013 merit commission meeting, where the information was made public.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers “must keep medical information confidential when obtained through employment-related medical examinations and inquiries.”
Also included in the settlement are parameters for the City to follow in rectifying this breach and any future breaches of ADA compliance.
The police department and merit commission must review and update policies and procedure related to the classification of personal medical history, which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, the settlement states.
It also outlines time frames for implementing the procedures, once approved, and for training of current and new employees on related policies.
Six months after the new policies are approved and implemented, and annually thereafter, the City must report to the Department of Justice on how the policies are in line with the ADA. This includes providing the Justice Department with a roster of all staff trained in the procedures.
New Albany city attorney Shane Gibson said he is working on drafting the new policies. One of the provisions he will include is that all police and merit commission disciplinary charges will have to go through the city legal department before being released to any outside person, to avoid any future disclosures.
“I think at that time, the parties were all trying to be transparent and provide the information that was being requested as far as what was going on in this matter,” Gibson said. “Unfortunately, there was information ... disclosed that should not have been.
“We realized there was a mistake and have been trying to rectify that ever since," Gibson said. "We are going to implement new policies and procedures to make sure it never happens again and put this matter behind everybody and move forward.”