PITTSBURGH — A former county jail officer who was fired from his job in Pittsburgh when he was 58 has won at least $850,000 from a federal jury that found he was wrongly fired because of his age and to make an example of him for taking federally protected medical leave.
Allegheny County officials say in a statement they disagree with many of the decisions made in the lawsuit brought by former Maj. Walter Mikulan and they intend to appeal Thursday’s verdict. The county says Mikulan was fired for record-keeping issues.
Mikulan, now 62, was the jail’s third highest-ranking officer when he was fired in 2013 after nearly 30 years at the jail. His attorney Timothy O’Brien said the warden fired Mikulan to get rid of older supervisors and because Mikulan used the Family Medical Leave Act for work-related stress and medical issues when the jail was trying to discourage sick leave by some guards.
O’Brien said the warden wanted overtime sheets signed off by captains by hand to increase accountability but fired Mikulan because one of several hundred overtime forms he reviewed was electronically signed.
“The warden, to cover up the real reason for the firing, claimed these frivolous disciplinary actions constituted insubordination on Walter’s part,” O’Brien said.
“When a person grows old doing a job, they shouldn’t be fired for being too old to do the job,” he added. “And nobody who takes leave from a job should lose that job when the leave is protected under federal law.”
O’Brien said the jury award could roughly double once the judge adds interest, attorneys’ fees and other damages allowed under the federal law.