A federal judge has recommended dismissing a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Waterville police sergeant against the city.

Jeffrey C. Bearce, through attorneys Stephen Langsdorf and Matthew J. LaMourie, claimed the city violated his civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities and Maine Human Rights acts.

Bearce, now 53, worked full time for the Waterville department for 23 years until his employment was terminated in February 2011.

Attorney Edward Benjamin, who represented Waterville, said Tuesday he hoped the decision by Magistrate Judge John H. Rich III would be affirmed by Judge Jon D. Levy. The city had sought summary judgment on all the charges.

Benjamin said the ruling was made on the written record. There were no oral arguments.

Presiding judges rarely overturn recommended decisions.

On Tuesday, LaMourie said, “The matter is still in litigation and we will have not comment at the moment.”

Bearce was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009 and was on medical leave — for which fellow employees donated vacation time so he could be paid — for about a year until the end of 2010 when he presented the city a note from his doctor clearing him to work without restriction.

The city had Bearce undergo a fitness for duty examination, but while he was undergoing the examinations, his cancer returned with a prognosis that he would be out for another year. That’s when the city terminated him.

In the federal complaint, Bearce said the city should have returned him to work as soon as he requested it, and sought back pay and benefits.

In a recommended decision issued Monday in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Rich wrote, “The plaintiff cannot take the position with his employer that he needs no accommodations due to a disability in order to return to work and then recover against that employer under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, or the Maine Human Rights Act for failing to accommodate the disavowed disability in returning him to work.”

Bearce won support in August 2012 from the Maine Human Rights Commission for his claim that he was subject to illegal workplace discrimination by the city of Waterville. The lawsuit was filed in January 2013 after efforts to settle the claim were unsuccessful.

Bearce more recently worked as a lieutenant in the law enforcement division of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, resigning in May 2013.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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