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Council restores officer's pay

A Brooksville officer who is pregnant had her salary reduced when she began temporary work as a dispatcher two months ago.

After wading through the chain of command and making her case at grievance hearings for the past 4{ months, police Officer Kristen Gore can finally turn her attention to the root of the rigmarole _ her pregnancy.

The Brooksville City Council decided Monday night that Gore should receive the same pay she did as an officer while she temporarily serves as a dispatcher. Gore has been with the Brooksville Police Department for eight years. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Gore, who is due to deliver in November, had been paid $8.65 an hour since early June, the wage a dispatcher with eight years of service with the department would earn. That was about 27 percent less than the $11.92 an hour she is paid as an officer.

Gore went into the City Council meeting Monday night hoping to recoup the difference between the money she would have made as an officer and what she has been paid as a dispatcher for the past two months. Instead, the council voted 3-2 to accept the city personnel board's recommendation to restore Gore to officer's pay as of July 20.

Mayor Richard Lewis and council member Ernie Wever voted against the personnel board's recommendation. Both men said Gore should have been reimbursed for the entire time she has worked as a dispatcher.

Lewis, in particular, was vocal in his support for Gore's request, admonishing that the city had let Gore's case drag on too long.

"An employee is an employee, and we should treat them all the same," Lewis said at Monday's council meeting.

Gore informed her supervisors at the police department in March that she was pregnant and requested reassignment to a light-duty position to reduce danger to the fetus.

She was told there were no such positions available and advised she could use vacation time or begin her maternity leave if she did not want to continue working as a patrol officer.

Gore continued working as a patrol officer for several weeks while she waited for a response from the city to her reassignment request. On April 1, she submitted a note from her doctor stating she had to be moved to a lower-risk postion. She was soon offered the position as a dispatcher with a lower hourly wage.

In the official grievance she filed soon after the dispatcher offer was extended, Gore wrote, "A time that should be happy for myself and my family has been stressful and upsetting."

City Manager Richard Anderson's logic in recommending Gore receive dispatcher pay while working as a dispatcher was simple. Why should the city pay someone for work she is not performing? Though a similar case in 1994 resulted in an officer being assigned to dispatch with no pay cut, Anderson said the city's "precedent has been that there hasn't been any real precedent."

Small municipalities such as Brooksville have difficulty dealing with these personnel issues because they do not have enough office positions in their police or fire agencies to simply reassign someone to a desk job, Anderson said.

Further complicating the matter was the city's lack of policies addressing situations such as Gore's. Anderson said most of the smaller cities Brooksville officials contacted also do not have policies dealing with the pay and reassignment of pregnant employees. Neither Crystal River nor Inverness, for example, has guidelines for such situations.

Anderson and the council agreed that a policy needs to be developed to handle future requests for reassignment such as Gore's. Without a policy, Anderson said, the door could be opened for city employees to request reassignment to lesser duties without a decrease in pay based on a wide array of injuries or temporary disabilities other than pregnancy.