WASHINGTON - The Justice Department filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that the City of Colorado Springs Police Department refused to promote Officer Lance Lazoff to sergeant in retaliation for his association with and assistance to his wife who was the lead plaintiff in a successful class action lawsuit against the police department under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
According to the government’s suit, filed in federal district court in Denver, Lazoff serves on the Police Department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit (S.W.A.T. team), teaches S.W.A.T. tactics nationally, and has had numerous commendations. Lazoff applied for promotion nine months after the settlement involving his wife, Sandy, who successfully challenged the police department’s policy of involuntarily retiring police officers with disabilities. Lazoff publicly supported and assisted his wife’s efforts. Although the former police chief claimed to have legitimate reasons for refusing to promote Lazoff, the government’s complaint alleges that the real reason was to punish Lazoff for activity that is protected under the ADA.
“The anti-retaliation provisions of our civil rights laws are vital to their efficacy,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “If employers can exact retribution for an individual’s assertion of his or her federal rights, or the rights of a spouse, then those rights become illusory.”
The United States’ suit – brought under the ADA – seeks a court order requiring the Police Department to offer Lazoff a promotion to sergeant, together with other make-whole relief including the payment of back pay with interest, and related benefits.
More information about the ADA can be obtained on the Department of Justice’s ADA home page at http://www.ada.gov. Information about the ADA is also available on the Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).