FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 5, 1999
The Office of the Attorney General has filed a Notice of Appeal in the case of Knussman v. State of Maryland, which involved claims of gender discrimination and federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations, filed by a Maryland State Trooper. The appeal has been filed on behalf of Jill D. Mullineaux, an administrative specialist in the Personal Management Division of the Maryland State Police, who is seeking to have the appellate court find that, at the time of the incident which gave rise to the lawsuit, she was entitled to qualified immunity and should not be personally liable for the $375,000 judgment that was awarded by the jury.
The appeal is vital to the interests of more than 75,000 State employees who should be protected when they attempt in good faith to do their jobs every day. In this case, Ms. Mullineaux merely attempted to advise the Maryland State Police and the Plaintiff - based on information she received from another State department. The case arose shortly after the passage of a state statute for which there were no regulations or information bulletins regarding its application. Trooper Knussman‘s wife was expecting a child in December of 1994. He inquired about taking sick leave he could take in order to stay home after the birth of the child. Knussman testified that Mullineaux told him that only women were eligible to be primary care providers. However, Knussman nonetheless requested 30 days leave as the primary care giver under the new state law but his request was refused.
Ms. Mullineaux testified that she did not discriminate against Knussman because she never received a leave request from him, she did not deny his request, and she relied on advice given to her from the Maryland Department of Personnel.
As of mid-January, 1995, the Department of Personnel has issued a clarification that either parent can be a "primary care taker." Additionally, the Maryland State Police have before and since Knussman’s request granted all leave requests made under the new state law. In fact, one of the subsequent requests came from Trooper Knussman, who was permitted to take extended leave in 1996 with the birth of his second child.