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WINNEBAGO COUNTY

Former Winnebago County sheriff's deputy sues for discrimination

Courts

A former deputy sheriff in Winnebago County is taking his old employer to court after he says he was fired because of his disability.

Ben Nordskog says in court documents that after he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the county refused to accommodate the recommendations of Nordskog's psychiatrist, and later fired him in retaliation.

According to court documents filed in August:

Nordskog was hired as deputy sheriff in August 2017 by then-Winnebago County Sheriff David Peterson. In April 2020, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and was placed on leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

In reviewing Nordskog's changing work schedule, his psychiatrist suggested it would be beneficial for Nordskog to have more predictable hours. The psychiatrist also noted the deputy sheriff was not a harm to himself or others and was cleared to return to work. 

A short time after Nordskog provided the psychiatrist's report to the county in April 2020, Nordskog met with Sheriff Peterson and county officials and was told the county could not accommodate the psychiatrist's recommendations, and that he would need to resign or that he would be fired when his leave ended on June 25, 2020. Nordskog refused to resign and was fired.

In November, Nordskog filed a complaint with the state's Civil Rights Commission, which reviewed his case and issued a letter indicating he had grounds to sue the county.

Nordskog is charging the county with two counts of violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act, one count related to disability and one count of retaliation for firing him. He is seeking an undisclosed sum for damages and court costs.

Since Peterson is no longer sheriff, his name was dropped from the suit.

No trial date has been set, but the two sides must exchange any evidence by Oct. 29.  

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