Appeals Court Finds Maryland State Police Liable For Gender Discrimination in 'Trooper Dad' Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
November 8, 2001 12:00 am

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RICHMOND, VA — The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland today applauded the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to disallow the Maryland State Police to escape liability for their discriminatory treatment of a state trooper who was denied leave from work to care for his newborn child because the police department limited parental leave of absence to ‘mothers only.’

“”What the court said is that government officials who knowingly discriminate based upon gender will no longer be permitted to escape responsibility by hiding behind the cloak of official immunity,”” said Deborah A. Jeon, an ACLU of Maryland staff attorney.

In addition to rebuffing the Maryland Police, the appeals court sent the case back to federal district court for retrial as to the amount of damages to be awarded to trooper Kevin Knussman. In 1999, Knussman was awarded $375,000 by a federal court jury, which found that the Maryland Police’s intentional gender discrimination violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“”For us, this case has never been about the money,”” said Knussman, who has been a full-time dad since his retirement in July 1999. “”It is about taking a stand for family values, and for holding the government responsible when it violates employees’ constitutional and civil rights.””

“”My family and I are fortunate to have been able to bring public attention to the issue of family leave and the imperative for equal treatment of men and women with respect to child care benefits,”” Knussman added. “”That, in turn, has assisted thousands of public safety personnel. It’s very gratifying to hear from troopers and others that our efforts have enabled them to take more time to meet family needs.””

In rejecting the Maryland State Police’s attempt at immunity, the court’s majority said: “Government classifications drawn on the basis of gender have been viewed with suspicion for three decades. . . [G]ender classifications that appear to rest on nothing more than conventional notions about the proper station in society for males and females have been declared invalid time and again by the Supreme Court.”

The attorneys representing Knussman in this case are Debbie Jeon of the ACLU of Maryland, Robin R. Cockey, of the Salisbury, Maryland law firm, Cockey, Brennan & Maloney, and Lenora Lapidus and Sara Mandelbaum of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

To read the full text of the opinion, go to

To read more about this case go to the following links:

ACLU in the Courts: Knussman v. Maryland –

ACLU Wins $375,000 Jury Award in Case Of Dad Denied Leave to Care for First-Born Child –

ACLU and Maryland Trooper Issue Letters Condemning Retaliation by State Police –

Appeals Court Hears Arguments Today in Case of MD ‘Trooper Dad’ Denied Family Leave /ReproductiveRights/ReproductiveRights.cfm?ID=7110&c=30&Type=s.

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