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Nassau police lieutenant sues for $5 million under disabilities law

Nassau Police Lt. William Ward is seen in

Nassau Police Lt. William Ward is seen in this 2007 photo. Credit: 2007 Nassau County PBA newsletter

A Nassau County police lieutenant is suing the county and its police department for more than $5 million under the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging he was denied workplace accommodations he requested because of injuries sustained on the job, according to a recently filed lawsuit.

William J. Ward, 47, of Wading River, claims in court papers filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip that he was injured in the line of duty April 16, 2013, and was rendered disabled. Ward's attorney, Harry H. Kutner Jr., of Mineola, said in a statement that his client was struck in his patrol car by a drunken driver who was "two times over the limit" on the Southern State Parkway.

Ward, a 25-year veteran of the Nassau force who, according to his lawyer, was named twice by the department as its "supervisor of the year," said he had a back injury on a county form dated June 5, 2014, that requested "reasonable accommodation" for a disability.

"I have a herniated disc that is pressing against my spinal cord causing pain and discomfort," Ward wrote. "I need my work location changed to reduce the amount of time I commute, and thus sit still, to no more than 45 minutes from my residence. . . . I also need a comfortable chair and the ability to recline when needed."

Wading River is on the North Shore of Suffolk County, about a 60-mile drive from Hewlett in western Nassau, where he worked. The closest precinct to his home, the Second Precinct in Woodbury, is about 42 miles away.

Spokesman for both the county and the police department declined to comment on the pending litigation. Ward declined to comment Monday and referred questions to his lawyer.

The suit seeks damages equal to Ward's past, present and future lost pay and benefits, attorney fees and an injunction ordering the department to implement the requested accommodation.

Ward was paid a total salary of $228,312, including base pay and overtime, in 2013, and $214,059 the year before, records show.

Ward, who was assigned to the Fourth Precinct in Hewlett, said his request was denied, according to court papers, which also allege that other officers' similar requests were granted.

On June 16, 2014, Ward filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and that same day the department retaliated, filing departmental charges against Ward, according to the lawsuit.

Ward violated department policy by leaving his home on Feb. 2, 2014, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. while on sick leave, according to a police disciplinary document included in the lawsuit. He was docked 24 hours of paid time, says the form, which is dated June 16, 2014 -- the same day Ward filed the EEOC complaint.

Kutner said in a statement that Ward was brought up on "administrative charges alleging he left his house against department rules to bring his children to Sunday school."

The lawyer said the incident occurred months earlier and was the "result of a lieutenant and a sergeant monitoring his Wading River residence while on overtime on Super Bowl Sunday."

On June 28, 2014, the suit says, the department filed papers to "force" Ward into an involuntary retirement.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this incorrectly stated that William Ward had retired from the Nassau County Police Department.

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