Female Orlando police officer says termination felt like 'court-martial’

Elizabeth Waba-Daniels suing city for gender bias

Veteran Orlando police officer Elizabeth Waba-Daniels said her termination Thursday morning felt like a court-martial when her only options were termination or an extended 12 weeks without pay.

“I’m very sad, I felt hollow inside,” the veteran mounted police officer told News 6. “When I said I wanted to return to light duty, he simply read from a memo that I was terminated.”

Waba-Daniels was badly injured when she was thrown from a “difficult” horse while on duty on May 3, 2018.

The injuries were extensive including a labral tear, “a broken back and a prolapse to her bladder.”

“A male (officer) has a broken finger, they get permanent disability,” she said.

Waba-Daniel’s attorneys Jeff Appel and Joe Cline of the Appel Law Firm said the officer’s injury has become the foundation for an “ad hoc application of OPD’s accommodation of officers injured in the line of duty.”

The Tampa law firm is representing several former female OPD officers in similar alleged gender bias cases.

According to the lawsuit, Waba-Daniels applied for an in the line of duty pension on May 3, 2019 but the department has not considered her request.

Cline said there appears to be a pattern of a double standard at the department that he called a “hot bed” of discrimination against women.

This was the first time Waba-Daniels has commented on her case.

According to a letter obtained by News 6, she was granted an alternative duty assignment and had received full salary and benefits since last year.

The letter reads in part: “At no time have you requested or indicated a willingness to return to full duty.”

Daniels has argued that she is not ready to return to full duty because of her extensive injuries.

On Thursday, Deputy Chief Eric Smith of the Patrol Services Bureau read from a pre-written memo: “ Separation of employment is required when a disability application is pending for more than 180-days.”

The termination was effective immediately but will not impact her disability pension application.

Appel told News 6 that the law “under Chapter 440, which deals with workers’ compensation injuries, seems to indicate a termination because of a valid claim for compensation is illegal.”

That law states that, “No employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any employee by reason of such employee’s valid claim for compensation or attempt to claim compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Law.”

Orlando police Chief Orlando Rolon recently said he was unaware of any gender bias within the department.

Rolon said light-duty positions were being eliminated to place more officers on the street.

The trial is expected to begin in February.

Orlando police released a statement on the situation:

The Orlando Police Department has been required to serve several officers with Notices of Termination this year, all following the same provision in the FOP Collective Bargaining Agreement. The officers have been from all races and genders. Each case is handled in a uniform manner. I am working to get you additional documentation to show this fact. As you can understand, I have to have our legal department review the documents. The Orlando Police Department is a professional organization that following applicable laws and the FOP approved Collective Bargaining Agreement when addressing the employment of its members.

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