An appeals court in Pennsylvania has ruled that the state police force must rehire a trooper whom it let go after a female officer obtained a protective order against him which barred him from having a gun. A dissenting judge argued in vain that the dismissal was justified since under the circumstances the man “cannot perform the basic and essential duties for which he was hired as a trooper.” Union grievance arbitration awards, however, get deferential treatment in court afterward, and so it was in this case, in which the arbitrator found it significant that the state had listed other reasons (unbecoming conduct, conformance to laws) for its action.
Now, there’s nothing to physically prevent the state from complying with this set of marching orders: it is free to go on shelling out a trooper’s salary and benefits at taxpayer expense even while it cannot ask him to perform the duties of his job. Still, it’s close enough to a “sued if you do, sued if you don’t” situation that I filed the story in that department at Overlawyered, a department that also compiles many other curious stories:
- Group of Los Angeles restaurants, trying (they said) to be responsible employers, band together to adopt 3 percent menu surcharge to provide their employees with health insurance, then get sued for price-fixing over it;
- Employers with a single company-owned lodging at a remote site fear different kinds of liability whether they bunk mixed genders together in it, or send a single-gender team instead;
- L.A. puts two police officers on desk duty after shooting of unarmed autistic man, loses $4 million discrimination verdict for doing that;
- Employers can face liability if they ask job applicants either for too much documentation or for too little regarding citizenship status;
- On the environmental front, you might get ticketed for having a brown lawn even as California emergency water restrictions make it unlawful for you to water it, or sued over the menace to neighbors of wild alligators on your land even though it is unlawful for you to disturb the critters’ habitat;
- Pizza delivery companies face suit after sending delivery persons into high-crime areas, but also if they do not;
- Cab driver with fear of dogs + laws requiring transport of service animals = suit against employer.
Sometimes courts succeed (expensively, and after the fact) in untangling these conflicts. But wouldn’t it be nice if the law didn’t create so many of them in the first place by trying to reach into so many areas of life?