A former state trooper in Spokane is suing the Washington State Patrol, claiming the agency wrongfully fired him over a brain tumor that affected his abilities.
Doctors discovered the tumor on Michael Alm’s brain after he had a seizure on the job in 2000. The WSP fired him 14 years later, claiming he lied about his score on a shooting test.
The lawsuit, filed this month in U.S. District Court in Spokane, claims the WSP created a hostile work environment for Alm. It also accuses the WSP of firing him because of his disability, when it should have returned him to a desk job.
Alm remained on medical leave for three years after the seizure, then returned to work “in a part-time, light-duty office capacity,” the lawsuit states. That continued until 2007, when he was cleared to return to patrol duty and handle a gun.
“He still had some minor issues with motor control on his left side, but these were not severe enough to prevent him from performing his job, with accommodation,” the lawsuit states. “Alm’s superior, Captain Jeff Otis, was not pleased with the fact that Alm was cleared to return to duty.”
The lawsuit claims Otis explicitly told Alm of his disapproval. It claims Otis and others “invented” reasons to fire Alm, even though he met the technical requirements of the job.
In 2009, Alm developed slight tremors as a side effect of a prescribed medication, according to the lawsuit. The tremors affected his shooting accuracy, and his superiors allowed him to retake a firing test until he met the qualifying score.
The case hinges on another incident at the shooting range in 2013.
Alm was taking another shooting test and struggled to meet the qualifying score of 225, according to the lawsuit. After the first round of shooting, a supervisor inquired about his score, and Alm replied that it was 220. He hadn’t yet counted his points, but he knew he had come up short, the lawsuit states.
His actual score didn’t matter, the lawsuit claims, because any score under 225 would have necessitated another attempt.
“The WSP, nonetheless, charged Alm with misconduct, alleging that he falsely reported his initial shooting score in an attempt to qualify when he in fact had not qualified,” the lawsuit states. “Moreover, the WSP determined this charge to be so serious as to justify the termination of Alm’s employment.”
The WSP cited that allegation when it fired Alm in January 2014, according to the lawsuit. He had been a trooper for 19 years.
Alm is seeking an undetermined amount in damages. The Spokane attorney representing him, Andrew Biviano, said he would advise his client not to comment on the case.
Trooper Kyle Moore, a WSP spokesman, said the agency would not comment on pending litigation. An attempt to reach Otis, the captain, was unsuccessful.
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