State police paramedic who won suit over denial of parental leave retires

He will look for work as nurse, assistant

July 08, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Maryland State Police flight paramedic who won a $375,000 jury award against his department for being denied extended parental leave has retired after 23 years on the force.

"I'm no longer `Trooper Dad,' " former Tfc. H. Kevin Knussman said yesterday from his Easton home, referring to the nickname attached to him after the February verdict that drew widespread national attention. "I'm just Dad."

Knussman, 42, said he was taking advantage of a supplemental retirement program that will pay him 59 percent of his salary.

He said he planned to stay home and care for his two young children and elderly parents before looking for work as a nurse or physician's assistant.

Attorneys for the state police have asked a federal judge to grant a new trial in the case, or to substantially reduce the award.

Knussman had contended that he was a victim of sex discrimination when his superiors refused to allow him extended paternity leave after the birth of his first daughter.

A jury ruled he had been improperly denied leave because he is a man.

Yesterday, Knussman said the stance of the state police was "a big factor" in his decision to retire but said he felt "very positive" about his battle for equal rights.

"I think we've made a huge commitment to helping people, especially fathers," he said.

Since winning his case in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Knussman had not returned to work as a flight paramedic.

After winning the case, he was prohibited by his superiors from working as a flight paramedic because of his refusal to undergo a "fitness for duty" examination.

He had testified in the trial that he was depressed after being denied the leave and couldn't remember treatment he gave to two patients.

In May, however, Knussman was given the go-ahead by state police officials to resume his duties with the medical evacuation helicopter unit.

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