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    Fired narcoleptic police dispatcher sues Hillside

    Should someone with narcolepsy—a neurological disorder that can cause people to unexpectedly fall asleep—be allowed to work as a police dispatcher?

    That's the question raised in a federal lawsuit by a Bellwood resident who was fired by the Hillside Police Department in 2007. Kenya Madden, 29, "felt it was the honest thing to do" when she told a supervisor before her first shift working alone that she was narcoleptic, said her attorney, Thomas Crooks.

    Madden can effectively control the disorder with medication and never once fell asleep during 10 weeks of training, Crooks said. Her supervisor, a lieutenant, asked her to resign and sent her home, alleged the suit, filed Tuesday. A week later, she was fired.

    In a telephone interview, Joseph Lukaszek, the police chief in the west suburb, said the village couldn't take the risk of Madden falling asleep while taking an emergency call.

    "It would put every police officer and every citizen in harm's way," he said.

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    Madden can effectively control the disorder with medication
    That's the $64 question. If "effectively" means that the dispatcher is not going to fall asleep then firing her was wrong. But who can guarantee that?
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    They may run into ADA problems if enough doctors testify the meds will keep her from falling asleep. Otherwise the same argument can be made to fire any police officers that have to take insulin.

    The last I knew, my dept had a policy that if a diabetic had one episode while on the job, either from too much or too little insulin, that was the end of their career. That was instituted after one officer crashed a car after going into diabetic shock.
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    From what I remember of the medication, it doesn't really keep you from falling asleep so much as it allows you a few minutes' warning before it happens. My grandmother was narcoleptic, and would go on cross country drives. The medication allowed her enough time to pull off the road. Things may have changed with the medication in the last 10 years though.
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    I wouldn't feel comfortable knowing they were my lifeline if they were dispatching for me. Just my honest opinion...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terminator View Post
    That's the question raised in a federal lawsuit by a Bellwood resident who was fired by the Hillside Police Department in 2007. Kenya Madden, 29, "felt it was the honest thing to do" when she told a supervisor before her first shift working alone that she was narcoleptic, said her attorney, Thomas Crooks.
    I'd be uncomfortable only having one dispatching working alone, period. Anything can happen to anybody.

    I'm also wondering, if the medication keeps her awake, why did she tell the Lt.? Was she worried about it?

    The ADA is a strange law. Our crime lab has a woman biologist who is legally blind from diabetes. The state continually buys here more and more powerful microscopes, but it's kinda disconcerting to see her come to work with her seeing eye dog. But apparently, they can't fire her.
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    Sorry, I nodded off for a moment. What was this thread about?
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    Interesting it was not disclosed up front? I wonder if they had a medical questionnaire, and if she lied on the application?
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    Quote Originally Posted by PDawg View Post
    Interesting it was not disclosed up front? I wonder if they had a medical questionnaire, and if she lied on the application?
    I could be wrong (often am!), but I don't recall ever being asked that question on a medical questionnaire. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know what narcolepsy was until after I became a cop.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    The last I knew, my dept had a policy that if a diabetic had one episode while on the job, either from too much or too little insulin, that was the end of their career. That was instituted after one officer crashed a car after going into diabetic shock.
    That policy would not stand up to ADA today.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    I could be wrong (often am!), but I don't recall ever being asked that question on a medical questionnaire. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't know what narcolepsy was until after I became a cop.
    I'm sure it's department specific, and seeing it's a "Village" I'm guessing they are a small department with few resources.

    I had to go through a background check, VSA test and a physical, and I needed a doctor's clearance for a prescription I was on at the time.

    I would think narcolepsy would fall under "any medical condition that might negatively impact on your ability to perform the job effectively."

    I have a great-aunt with narcolepsy. Like Ducky said, the meds don't prevent you from falling asleep, just give you time to get to a safe place.
    Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by maclean View Post
    That policy would not stand up to ADA today.
    They weren't fired, but put out on non occupational disability.

    Maybe that's why we don't hire anyone with diabetes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    They weren't fired, but put out on non occupational disability.

    Maybe that's why we don't hire anyone with diabetes.
    You guys actually have a policy saying you don't hire diabetics?!?!

    Man, I know a couple of diabetics who don't need to work for the rest of their lives, I'm sending them down there!
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  15. #15
    Retdetsgt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maclean View Post
    You guys actually have a policy saying you don't hire diabetics?!?!

    Man, I know a couple of diabetics who don't need to work for the rest of their lives, I'm sending them down there!
    Unless they've recently changed the policy they don't. Most are usually too fat anyway. But it's not only the diabetes itself, but the future complications from it. We've always been real picky when it comes to any preexisting conditions of any kind. Our disability program is too generous and it costs too much.

    My doctor was recently telling me that obesity is the number one reason diabetes is on such a rise in this country.
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  16. #16
    MacLean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retdetsgt View Post
    Unless they've recently changed the policy they don't. Most are usually too fat anyway. But it's not only the diabetes itself, but the future complications from it. We've always been real picky when it comes to any preexisting conditions of any kind. Our disability program is too generous and it costs too much.

    My doctor was recently telling me that obesity is the number one reason diabetes is on such a rise in this country.
    The ADA doesn't care how much a disability program costs, and being diabetic is a protected class. Especially now, following some recent amendments!

    http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy-and...sabilities.jsp

    It isn't a defense that you might have to provide medical or disability to someone in such a class, you can only prohibit them if they cannot perform the job.

    I'm certain a city like yours must have changed that policy by now, or will shortly following a lawsuit.

    Some diabetes results from being overweight, but there are millions of type I, or juvenile onset diabetics who had no control over the matter.

    My brothers (one now deceased) were both diagnosed at 11 or 12 years old, and were skinny as rails.
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  17. #17
    MacLean's Avatar
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    Here is the case law where San Antonio got their ass handed to them:

    Kapche v. City of San Antonio

    I'm sure with a little work, I can find one in the ninth circuit.

    (My wife handles ADA stuff for work, it has been very educational!)
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  18. #18
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    I know of two insulin dependant diabetic officers. Both are in good physical condition otherwise and both have never had problems regarding the job that I know of.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by maclean View Post
    I'm certain a city like yours must have changed that policy by now, or will shortly following a lawsuit.

    Some diabetes results from being overweight, but there are millions of type I, or juvenile onset diabetics who had no control over the matter.
    Probably, I really don't care anymore who they hire.... I don't need convincing.

    No doubt, but obesity is the reason for the rise in it. Too fucking many people live on Big Macs and 64 oz soft drinks from 7-11's in this country. I went to college with a guy who had diabetes who was also skinny. But even as a diabetic taking insulin, he ate a horrible diet. He'd been discharged from the Navy after completely submarine nuclear reactor operator school, two years worth. Just before he was supposed to go on his first cruise, he was diagnosed and tossed out. I seriously doubt he's still alive now unless he changed his eating habits.

    I agree juvenile diabetes is a different breed of cat, but everyone I know that got diabetes as an adult lived on high sugar diets. One woman cop I knew that was skinny as hell lived on steak and regular Pepsi. I bet she drank 10 a day. Hardly surprising she didn't come down with some nutritional problems. A good friend of mine just died last year after losing both legs to the disease. Again, his car was always full of empty fast food wrappers.

    These people may not be typical, I dunno, but their numbers are sure rising. I'm no health nut, but I don't eat that crap on a regular basis.
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  20. #20
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    Oh indeed, type II is on the rise, and we do it to ourselves for sure.

    It isn't just the big macs, but also the refined starches and sugars we were never meant to eat.

    I agree with you completely about that issue.

    I am somewhat... sensitive... about diabetes, as it took my brother at age 28 because he didn't manage it well.

    Sorry if I get a little forceful on the issue.
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