Two veteran Los Angeles Police Department officers are suing the city, alleging they were wrongly accused of being part of a so-called “blue flu” officer sickout during the July 4 weekend when they were actually ill when they took time off.
Officers Ryan Putman and Meggan Stroup brought their cases Nov. 9 and 10, respectively, in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging retaliation and violation of the state Labor Code. They each seek unspecified damages.
A representative for the City Attorney’s Office could not be immediately reached.
Hundreds of officers called in ill over the July 4 weekend, according to media reports. The sickout came after a period in which officers dealt with protests in May over the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police and the Los Angeles City Council’s slashing of $150 million from the police budget and the diversion of funds for other purposes in the wake of demands for changes in policing.
Putman is an 11-year veteran of the LAPD who is assigned to Valley Traffic Division’s special traffic enforcement detail, the suit states. He took July 3 off for “a valid illness,” availing himself of the benefits provided under the Labor Code and the “Kin Care” statute that then Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in 2014.
The law requires employers to provide paid sick leave to address a worker’s own illness or that of the employee’s child, spouse, or parent.
Upon returning to work, Putman heard other officers’ comments, fears, opinions, and chatter about an alleged “blue flu” and the adverse consequences for the participating officers, Putman’s suit states.
Before then, Putman knew of no call, plea, suggestion, or other information pertaining to an LAPD “blue flu” or for officers to call in sick over the July 4 weekend, his suit states.
In retaliation for taking sick leave, the LAPD accused Putman of unlawfully abusing his paid sick leave, of lying and of conspiring to and engaging in an illegal work protest, falsely labeling him as a “blue-flu’er,” Putman’s suit states.
Putman also was issued an “action item,” which will remain in his personnel file and could adversely affect his future when being considered for future transfers, promotions, assignments, and many other work benefits, his suit states.
Stroup, an 8-year LAPD veteran assigned to patrol duties with the Foothill Traffic Division, also felt ill July 3 and took sick time off before returning July 6, her suit states.
Stroup was at home during her first day off when she received a voicemail message from a sergeant telling her to provide a doctor’s note justifying her absence, according to her suit.
When Stroup returned to work, she soon heard “comments, fears, opinions and chatter about an alleged ‘blue flu’ and the consequences,” her suit states.
Some LAPD officers said Chief Michel Moore was “pissed and is going to take action,” that the chief had promised “there will be consequences” and that “heads will roll” for officers who “banged in sick,” according to her suit.
Like Putman, the LAPD put an “action item” in her file and when she protested to a sergeant that her illness was documented by her doctor’s note, the sergeant replied, “It’s super simple to get a doctor’s note, so it doesn’t really make a difference…,” her suit states.
Stroup, who was still taking prescription medication for her sickness, was also admonished based on the allegation she took part in the officer “blue flu,” the suit states.