Wife of deputy seriously injured in hit-and-run crash sues Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Florin Gray Law’s employment attorney, Greg Owens files an FMLA violation lawsuit for Polk County Sheriff Deputy Christin Pennell.
She accuses PCSO of routinely violating the Family and Medical Leave Act and Florida Worker’s Compensation statute. Christin Pennell claims it got so bad she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Florida Commission on Human Relations and is now suing PCSO in federal court.
The 14-page lawsuit details several grievances with the sheriff’s office related to how Christin was treated before and after her husband was injured on the job. Some of the accusations include PCSO allegedly denying her leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act so she could care for her seriously injured husband. She also details being passed over for promotions before and after the accident. On one day, Christin alleges she wasn’t allowed to take a day off so she could attend a trauma survivor’s event.
“I think anytime you’re in violation of state or federal law it’s serious,” said her attorney Greg Owens with Florin Gray.
“Abide by the law that we swore we’d uphold,” is her message to PCSO.
Back in 2016, a car struck Adam Pennell and a woman after the deputy stopped to help her. 33-year-old Jessica Enchautegui-Otero was killed. Pennell was left fighting for his life with broken arms, ribs and a crushed pelvis.
Christin Pennell accuses her employer of retaliating against her for taking time off to help her seriously injured husband, of suspending his workers’ compensation benefits as he was healing from the accident, denying her promotions several times over, and rejecting a request for her to take a day off to attend an event for trauma survivors.
“There’s a lot of heartache. There’s a lot of hurt. He’s [Grady Judd] a man of preaching morals and preaching values, preaching family and he didn’t support his own word,” she said.
The face-off over time-off, she says, made Pennell’s recovery even harder.
“He was unable to get in and out of the shower by himself to be able to put shoes on by himself to get dressed by himself I was still helping him with all those needs,” she said.
Once he returned to work the sheriff’s office put him in a civilian role, slashing his pay by $10,000, she says.
“I felt like we didn’t matter what my husband had just gone through didn’t matter, and they didn’t care what the law said, how we felt, what was right. We need a body back so come back,” described Christin.
We had Charles Gallagher, an independent attorney, review the case. We asked him if the case had merit. Gallagher tells ABC Action News the case stands out.
“Bombshell revelations there as the Family and Medical Leave Act gives some pretty, pretty absolute protections for employees and it looks like it’s pervasive deep stuff,” he said. “It’s not just surface type violations. It looks like it’s deep, deep-seated cultural problems here.”