February 26, 2009

Suit: Deputy fired due to panic disorder

A former deputy with Illinois' McHenry County Sheriff's Office claims in a lawsuit that he was illegally fired because of a panic disorder.

Former deputy Robert Schlenkert claims in his discrimination suit, which is seeking a minimum $50,000 in damages, that he was dismissed after he complained to state authorities about his treatment by supervisors after his panic disorder came to light, the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald reported Thursday.

The lawsuit says Schlenkert, who has been with the department for 17 years, was diagnosed with a panic disorder in 2001 and was placed on involuntary leave for psychological issues in April 2005. The suit says doctors cleared Schlenkert to return to duty about 19 months later.

However, Sheriff Keith Nygren ordered Schlenkert to attend a full police academy program in May 2007 as a condition of his return to duty. He was fired in December 2007 after failing the academy's physical fitness test four times.

However, the lawsuit claims Schlenkert's firing was not due to the fitness test, but because of his panic disorder and complaints he filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

(He) was competent to perform all of the essential functions of his position in a manner that met and/or exceeded legitimate expectations, the suit states. He had an outstanding work history and was never subjected to disciplinary action.