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Sullivan County settles lawsuit with former dispatcher

Matthew Lane • May 4, 2019 at 12:30 PM

GREENEVILLE — Sullivan County has settled a federal lawsuit filed by a former dispatcher, who claimed she was terminated from her position because of her pregnancy, her disability and her requests for family leave.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greeneville by Kendra Canipe, who worked for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office for more than eight years as a dispatcher and corrections officer.

Canipe previously filed a complaint against the SCSO with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The matter went to mediation with an EEOC mediator back in January and was settled a month later.

Sullivan County Attorney Dan Street said the lawsuit was settled for $50,000.

“We did settle the lawsuit with her. As with any settlement, we didn’t admit any wrongdoing, but we felt like there were some issues we could be exposed to,” Street said.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

According to the lawsuit, Canipe broke her lower ankle in May 2017 and as a result went on leave for six weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act. Subsequently, Canipe said she was written up twice and disciplined twice for absences during this leave.

Then in November 2017, Canipe said she became pregnant and suffered from severe pregnancy-related complications, including chronic migraine headaches, severe endometriosis and nausea. She was taken to the hospital once for severe dehydration, then later admitted to the hospital and eventually placed on home health care for about a week.

Canipe said in the lawsuit these complications caused her to be absent from work, though she did provide a doctor’s note for the illness-related absences.

ABUSE OF SICK TIME

According to the lawsuit, Canipe requested several accommodations from the SCSO, such as using vacation and compensatory time to cover her absences and to be switched from “swing shift” to a straight days schedule.

This was because the regular hours of a day shift would likely diminish the occurrences of her severe nausea, Canipe said.

However, all of these requests were denied.

When Canipe used her sick time, the lawsuit claims she was penalized under the county’s absence policy and incurred an “occurrence” for each day she was out. On Jan. 30, 2018, Canipe was terminated from her position due to “abuse of sick time.”

The lawsuit claims the SCSO violated the FMLA and discriminated against her because of her disability and her pregnancy.

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