Wrongful retaliation

State Police: Trooper who won case against agency unfairly blocked from returning to his old job.

February 27, 1999

IN WHAT can only be viewed as a blatant case of retaliation, the paramedic who recently won a federal sex discrimination lawsuit against the Maryland State Police now is being required to undergo psychiatric examination.

The police agency claims that it is "routine" for officers to submit to psychiatric evaluation when the agency questions their fitness for duty. Statements by Trooper 1st Class H. Kevin Knussman during the trial raised concern about his ability to function as a helicopter paramedic, according to State Police lawyers. Meantime, the 22-year state police veteran is confined to desk duties.

Tfc. Knussman won a $375,000 judgment against his employer for sex discrimination after he was refused family leave guaranteed under federal law. He continued to work after filing the suit, going on leave only to prepare for the trial.

The case was the first in the nation to prove sex discrimination byan employer under the 1993 law. It drew embarrassing national attention to the Maryland State Police and its top officials.

Now Col. David B. Mitchell, the state police superintendent, has again demonstrated the abusive arrogance of the state agency that is supposed to enforce the laws. Psychiatric discrediting of critics is an old ruse of dictators; it has no place under Maryland's rule of law.

Requiring briefings and a refresher course for re-entry to this life-saving specialty may be justified. We expect Medevac technicians to be up to speed before performing this vital task. But requiring a psychiatric exam for an employee who won a landmark case against his employer, twisting his court testimony as validation, is nothing more than the basest retribution.

Pub Date: 2/27/99

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