INDIANAPOLIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Lake County, Indiana and the Lake County Sheriff, for discrimination against a former employee who was disabled on the job. Thomas Ostrowski is a former correctional officer and police officer of the Lake County Sheriff Department. Mr. Ostrowski was forced to retire following a line-of-duty incident which left him disabled.
Since his forced retirement in 2003, Mr. Ostrowski has received payments in accordance with the pension plan established by the Lake County Sheriff. However, Mr. Ostrowski is not receiving a cost-of-living increase in his pension payments, which non-disabled retirees and surviving spouses do receive.
The ACLU of Indiana, representing Mr. Ostrowski, claims that refusal to provide Mr. Ostrowski with any cost-of-living increase violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“Failing to provide our client with the same pension plan benefits that are provided to non-disabled retirees is disability-based discrimination.” said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana Senior Staff Attorney. “This discriminatory practice is unjustified and must be resolved.”
Mr. Ostrowski experienced a line-of-duty injury when an accident, during driving training in 1996, caused a metal automobile part to be driven into his spine. His condition continued to worsen over the years and in 2003, the Lake County Sheriff’s Merit Board, determined that he was completely disabled and unable to work as a result of the incident. Nevertheless, Mr. Ostrowski is not receiving the same cost-of-living increase as a part of his pension plan, that other retirees receive.
“The ACLU of Indiana has long fought in the courts and the legislature on behalf of individuals with disabilities and for equal access to employment and benefits,” said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU of Indiana. “We stand for the constitutional rights and equality of all Hoosiers.”