Police Recruit Wins Settlement Over Diabetes
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 31, 2004
JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI--The Mississippi Department of Public Safety will pay $35,000 in damages to a police recruit for failing to accommodate his diabetes, as part of a lawsuit settlement announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department in 2000, claimed that the MDPS violated Ronnie Collins' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Collins has Type II diabetes, in which his body produces insulin, but cannot use it properly. The suit alleged that officials in his Highway Patrol training class refused his requests for more food than other trainees -- food needed to control his blood sugar level. As a result, Collins claimed, he was confused because his blood sugar was too low. When he failed to report to training, he was dismissed.
MDPS officials had asked for the suit to be withdrawn, claiming it violated the 11th Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits lawsuits by individuals against a state.
In 2001, a federal judge agreed and threw out the case.
But last year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the suit, ruling that the 11th Amendment does not protect states from lawsuits brought by other states or the federal government, in this instance the Justice Department.
In addition to the monetary damages, MDPS agreed to implement a policy on reasonable accommodation and train its officers on the policy, along with recognizing diabetes and other disabilities. The MDPS will also incorporate an overview of diabetes into its existing curriculum for training of troopers and future cadets.
The government had sought Collins' reinstatement with seniority and back pay. A DOJ spokesperson said the reinstatement was not addressed in the settlement, which is subject to court approval.