Former Powell Cop Sues City, Police Administration for Long COVID Firing
Ex-officer allegedly clashed with department over policy, chronic illness prior to termination
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Dec 16, 2023
Former police officer Ryan Davis (right) is suing the city of Powell and several defendants, alleging he was wrongfully fired after developing long COVID. (Courtesy photo from U.S. District Court)
By Ellen Fike
Special to the Wyoming Truth
A former city of Powell police officer has filed a lawsuit against his most recent employer, alleging he was fired due to his long COVID-19 diagnosis.
Ryan Davis, now a California resident, filed the suit in U.S. District Court last week against the city of Powell, chief of police Roy Eckerdt, police Lt. Matt McCaslin, city clerk and human resources director Tiffany Brando, city administrator Zack Thorington and 10 unnamed John Does.
In the lawsuit, Davis states that while he was officially told his dismissal was due to his health issues, he believes he was terminated in retaliation for questioning department policies and practices.
Daniel Wilkerson, Davis’ Gillette-based attorney, claims in the suit that after the former police officer contracted COVID in October 2021, the virus then developed into long COVID, which is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Davis also was diagnosed with pneumonia and tachycardia—a heartbeat of over 100 beats per minute.
Davis’ alleges he was fired from the department because of his illness less than a year into his tenure, prompting him to return to California without any job prospects. Prior to moving to Wyoming, Davis was deputy sheriff in California for seven years. He also has 11 combined years of military service in the Army, the National Guard and the Reserves.
“One day a hero, the next a burden,” Davis’ 35-page lawsuit begins. “His entire family, living in California at the time, felt like this was where they could have the life they wanted—safer, smaller, with a strong sense of community and especially a place where the town treated the police with respect.”
Davis moved from California to Powell in late 2020, after hearing about the area from a friend he served with in Afghanistan, the lawsuit states. He joined the police department in March 2021 and claims he received consistent high marks and praise from police administration.
The suit also alleges Davis was wrongfully fired “because [his colleagues] wanted him out, they wanted to shut him up, so that he would stop questioning policies, training and policing action.” It also notes Davis filed a case against the city with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found the city of Powell violated the ADA by firing the former officer.
After Davis received a formal diagnosis on Oct. 15, 2021, Eckerdt granted him Family Medical Leave Act benefits. He also received workers’ compensation, as Wyoming statutes establish COVID is presumed to be a work-related injury, according to the suit.
From October to December 2021, Davis was unable to perform the normal duties of a patrolling police officer, but requested light work.
On Dec. 9, 2021, Davis received his three diagnoses—pneumonia, long COVID and tachycardia—from his personal physician and was referred to a cardiologist, who declined to allow Davis to return to normal police officer duties because of his health issues. The cardiologist instructed Davis to return in three months for a reassessment, the suit states.
On Jan. 7, 2022, Eckerdt, Brando and Thorington summoned Davis to a meeting, where he was fired “with no reasonable explanation.” The defendants allegedly used jargon that implied Davis’ illnesses were a “hardship to the department,” but gave “no legally appropriate” reason for his termination, the suit reads.
“They simply stated that [Davis] was a financial hardship to the budget,” the lawsuit states. “It was obvious that the Defendants had planned and conspired, prior to the meeting, that they were going to terminate him. That very same day [McCaslin] told several employees that [Davis] was going to be fired because he was sick.”
Davis’ attorneys argue the former officer cannot obtain a law enforcement job in California, as he has been “frozen out” by three agencies where he sought work due to his firing.
In written testimony, Davis claimed he faced opposition from police administration for being unwilling to use the department’s weapon system when he discovered the department was not up-to-date with proper certification.
“Eckerdt, McCaslin and my superiors treated my response with indifference and anger,” Davis stated. “I was labeled as unwilling to go with the program.”
Davis also notes that he came into conflict with the administration after voicing concerns about a sergeant who continuously entered unlocked buildings, claiming an unlocked door was a suspicious enough reason to investigate a potential crime inside.
“[Davis] was obviously fired because he was a pain to the police department administration,” the lawsuit reads. “He was fired in retaliation because he pointed out policy and training issues. He was fired because the department administration wanted to do things their way without any concern to the right or wrong of ‘their way.’”
Davis is seeking unspecified damages from the defendants. Requests for comment from Wilkerson and the city of Powell went unreturned last week.