Chronology of David Robert's Case

June 22, 1999 12:00 am

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1989-1994: David Roberts begins employment as a Trooper in 1989. During the next five years, he is promoted from Trooper to Trooper First Class to Senior Trooper to Lance Corporal.

Spring, 1996: Roberts and his wife learn they are expecting their first child, due on December 11, 1996.

August 1996: Comments from a Job Performance Appraisal: “L/Cpl. Roberts is capable of being a very highly active trooper with a good knowledge of the law….His supervisors feel that with the right frame of mind and a little more effort on L/Cpl. Roberts [sic] part that he could be one of the counties [sic] top troopers.”

December 2, 1996: Saying that he is expecting the birth of his first child, Roberts asks defendant Sergeant Terry Ledford of the human resources department about policies on leave to care for baby. Ledford says he thinks federal law allows 12 weeks of leave, but has no further information.

December 3, 1996: Seeking to clarify his leave benefits, Roberts calls Department of Public Safety Office of Human Resources in the state capital and is informed of his federal rights to medical leave. He then submits a written request for four to six weeks leave to begin on or about December 30, 1996 — the approximate termination date of his wife’s one-month leave of absence for childbirth.

December 7, 1996: Sydney Amanda Roberts is born.

December 8, 1996: Roberts telephones his supervisor, defendant First Sergeant David Coster, to ask for five leave days to care for his family. In his nine-year career, Roberts has accumulated more than 30 days of paid sick leave and 39 days of paid annual and personal leave. He is granted four of the days and is told to call before December 14 to request permission for the additional day. Roberts does so, and the fifth day is granted.

December 18, 1996: L/Cpl. Roberts returns to work, anticipating that his request for extended leave beginning in late December will be granted.

December 27, 1996: L/Cpl. Roberts is summoned to defendant Captain D.W. Williams’s office and is told that requesting information about leave policies from the Columbia office has made the Greenwood personnel look bad. Williams also accuses Roberts of “trying to fuck the men” for having requested extended leave. The word “motherhood” means “mother,” Williams tells him, and in his day, “the man was the breadwinner and it was the man’s responsibility to work, not stay at home with the kids.”

December 30, 1996: Roberts is summoned to another supervisor’s office, First Sergeant J.D. Shay, now deceased, and told that he would be “fucking the men” if took leave because the County was short-handed. Shay also tells him, in a letter misdated January 3, 1996, that “at no time did I or any Greenwood Supervisor agree with him taking four to six weeks of Family Sick Leave, but that he had the right to do this if he wished.”

December 30, 1996: Feeling increased pressure from his supervisors, Roberts withdraws his request for FMLA leave. He puts this request in writing, as directed by his supervisor F/Sgt. Shay

December 31, 1996: Roberts is “written up” for signing out from his shift three minutes early on December 20. He is also written up for signing out eight minutes early on December 21.

March 6, 1997: Defendant Interim DPS Director William E. Gunn sends Roberts a letter suspending him for five days for “insubordination” during a heated encounter with F/Sgt. Shay. The letter states that “further conduct of this or a similar nature will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.”

That same day, the DPS issues further written reprimand for failing to submit daily reports for the week in December he was on leave to care for his family; failure to follow-up on car insurance verification forms; failure to submit a written request for the leave he was granted verbally; and for leaving early from work in the days immediately following his daughter’s birth (see December 31).

Late March, 1997: Roberts files a grievance challenging his five-day suspension for “insubordination,” saying that the reprimands were triggered when he attempted to assert his rights under federal law.

During this time, Roberts contacts South Carolina attorneys John A. O’Leary and Everett J. Mercer who help with the grievance report.

May 2, 1997: In a memo, defendant Williams informs Roberts of eight alleged “procedure violations and falsifying records,” all of which supposedly occurred in 14 days, from April 15-28, 1997. Never before has Roberts been accused of or disciplined for so many “procedure violations” in 14-day period.

May 5, 1997: Gunn issues a final agency grievance denial in writing.

November 26, 1997: DPS State Employee Grievance Committee issues a final decision denying Roberts’ claims.

June 11, 1997: At 10:20 p.m., defendant Ledford and Lt. Morris arrive unannounced at the Roberts’ home. They inform Roberts, while his six-month-old daughter is in his arms, that he has been fired. Roberts is given a letter stating that he has been terminated for “consistent failure to follow standard procedures and policies that apply to each member of Highway Patrol.”

July 1998: Attorneys O’Leary and Mercer file suit on behalf of Roberts against the South Carolina DPS.

January 1999: Roberts is awarded a certificate of Service by State of South Carolina “in recognition and appreciation for more than ten years of loyal and faithful service to the citizens of the State of South Carolina.” This seems an ironic oversight since Roberts was terminated by the DPS in 1997.

March 1999: After hearing about a similar case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland — Knussman v. State of Maryland — Roberts contacts the ACLU.

June 22, 1999: ACLU files federal lawsuit on behalf of Roberts against the South Carolina DPS.

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