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Former dispatcher sues Sullivan County Sheriff's Office

Matthew Lane • Dec 31, 2018 at 7:30 PM

GREENEVILLE — A former dispatcher with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office claims she was terminated from her position because of her pregnancy, her disability and her requests for family leave.

In response, she has filed a complaint against the department with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville.

Kendra Canipe, who worked for the SCSO for more than eight years as a dispatcher and corrections officer, filed the lawsuit on Dec. 10. Brentwood attorney Heather Collins, who represents Canipe, had no comment on the lawsuit.

Neither did Sullivan County attorney Dan Street, except to say the entire matter is scheduled for mediation on Jan. 9.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

According to the lawsuit, Canipe broke her lower ankle in May 2017 and as a result went out on leave for six weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 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 these illness-related absences.

“ABUSE OF SICK TIME”

According to the lawsuit, Canipe requested several accommodations from the department, 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 FMLA and discriminated against her because of her disability and her pregnancy.

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