Rowlett Sued Because It May Have Fired a Trainee Cop for Allergy

Of all the things that one thinks might derail a trainee cop's trip through the academy, an allergy isn't the first thing that comes to mind. Mishandling a weapon or failing a drug test, sure, but not an allergy. But in a lawsuit filed in Dallas County late last week, Rachel Figura says that her allergy to cayenne pepper -- or the fact that she was a woman, one or the other -- is what led to her firing by the Rowlett police.

Figura says cayenne pepper is one of the primary ingredients in mace, an important tool in a modern cop's arsenal. She was still able to fully perform her duties, she says, she just sat out drills involving being sprayed with the pepper spray, from which her allergy would cause non-life threatening respiratory distress. (Her lawsuit specifies she's allergic to cayenne and uses "mace" and "pepper spray" interchangeably. MACE is a brand name belonging to Mace Security International Inc., makers of self-defense products that contain capsicum derived from peppers, though the company's website doesn't specify exactly which peppers it uses in its recipe.)

Figura says Rowlett Police Chief William M. Brodnax asked for information regarding the allergy, and she provided him with documentation confirming the sensitivity but saying she could still perform the essential duties of her position.

Figura says the police chief said she was dishonest about her allergy and later fired her. She is suing the department for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We spoke with Rowlett City Secretary Laura Hallmark late Friday afternoon. She couldn't give Unfair Park a comment because the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

Figura Lawsuit

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young