Woodbury, NJ – A former Gloucester County sheriff’s deputy has filed a lawsuit alleging that the county discriminated against him by firing him due to his post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
U.S. Army veteran John McMickle served six tours before he was honorably discharged in 2006, his attorney, Kevin Costello, told NJ.com.
McMickle joined the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office in February of 2015, Costello said.
When one of his friends passed away in February of 2017, then-Deputy McMickle took the news hard, his attorney explained.
Although he didn’t generally consume alcohol, Deputy McMickle downed multiple drinks that night and eventually wound up at a hospital, NJ.com reported.
Costello refused to provide further details regarding the incident itself.
After Deputy McMickle’s visit to the hospital, officers conducted a welfare check on him.
“No issues were identified,” during that contact, but police removed the deputy’s firearm and ammunition from his residence, NJ.com reported.
The department subsequently placed Deputy McMickle on medical leave and told him he could return to his duties as a deputy on the condition that he successfully complete a 30-day inpatient treatment program at Warrior’s Heart.
The facility, which is located in Texas, provides “chemical dependency, alcohol abuse, and co-occurring psychological disorders related to PTSD…or the psychological effects of…mild traumatic brain injury,” according to their website.
The program is only available to “active military, veterans, firefighters, police, EMTs” and other public servants who “protect and serve the citizens of the United States,” the Warrior’s Heart website read.
Deputy McMickle successfully completed the program and was given a doctor’s clearance to return to work, NJ.com reported.
However, Gloucester County Sheriff’s personnel wanted him to complete a second evaluation – using an in-state mental health professional – before they would allow him to come back to work.
The deputy complied with their request, but the second evaluator did not clear him to return to duty.
Deputy McMickle was subsequently fired by the sheriff’s office in October of 2017 – an action that his lawsuit claims violated both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994, NJ.com reported.
McMickle has requested that the court order the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office to end discriminatory practices against him and to implement changes to protect deputies in similar situations in the future.
"In sum, plaintiff has been punished for his service in the military and/or on account of his disability,” the suit read, according to NJ.com.
He also wants his job back and is seeking payment for benefits and lost wages.