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    Default Firefighter with epilepsy sues city after being suspended

    Quote Originally Posted by Firefighter with epilepsy sues city after being suspended

    Thursday, February 21, 2008

    By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    A 27-year veteran of the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau filed suit in federal court Tuesday alleging that he was illegally suspended from his job following a diagnosis of epilepsy.

    Fire Capt. David J. Cerminara, 51, of Banksville, said yesterday that he is running out of the sick time and vacation he has relied on since being placed on involuntary leave in April.

    In his lawsuit, filed by attorney Samuel J. Cordes, he alleges that the city violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not returning him to work, and demands that he be allowed to go back on the job, with back pay and compensation for distress.

    "To just throw somebody out after 27 years because they've had a seizure, it's unheard of," Mr. Cordes said. "The city has an obligation to accommodate any disability."

    He said Capt. Cerminara had a seizure in March, but was put on medication and released to return to work by his neurologist. The complaint alleges that a doctor paid by the city then wrote to Capt. Cerminara's neurologist, indicating that the city requires that a firefighter be off seizure medications and seizure-free for one year before he can work.

    Mr. Cordes said that standard is no longer espoused for veteran firefighters by the National Fire Protection Association and violates federal law. The Epilepsy Foundation has criticized governments that bar people with seizure disorders from police and fire jobs.

    "It excludes people with epilepsy or seizures from serving as firefighters when they're perfectly capable of doing the job," Mr. Cordes said.

    "There have been gentlemen before who had seizures who went right back to work," Capt. Cerminara said. "They put me on medication, and I haven't had any problem since."

    Administration officials said they hadn't seen the complaint and could not comment.

    "This is a 27-year veteran who has been put through quite a lot of hell over nothing," Mr. Cordes said. "He's within eight days of having no money whatsoever, and he's done nothing wrong."

    Just wow this is definitely messed up

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    My brother had a similar problem. He had a seizure, was put on medication, and had to be seizure-free for 6 months before he could get his drivers license back. Later, even while on medication, he had another seizure so that's no guarantee it won't happen again. He went back and forth between different medications, dosages..etc trying to find something that works. Knock on wood, but unfortunately only time will tell...

    I'm having a hard time siding with the Cap on this one. I feel for him and hate to see someone loose their job..etc because of the condition. At the same time it may be a reality that his medication condition may take him off the line. The department should work with him better to find alternatives and not just cut him loose, however.
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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    I'm having a hard time siding with the Cap on this one. I feel for him and hate to see someone loose their job..etc because of the condition. At the same time it may be a reality that his medication condition may take him off the line. The department should work with him better to find alternatives and not just cut him loose, however.
    I agree with voyager. I don't believe it's in anyone's best interest to have him on the front line, but I believe he should be offered a non-line position in the organization (training, enforcement, etc). He's got too much experience to just let go, it needs to be retained and utilized for the betterment of the whole department.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PAZ711 View Post
    I agree with voyager. I don't believe it's in anyone's best interest to have him on the front line, but I believe he should be offered a non-line position in the organization (training, enforcement, etc). He's got too much experience to just let go, it needs to be retained and utilized for the betterment of the whole department.
    Exactly. The city will most likely lose this case, and the good Capt will be back at work, though I would guess not on line. The federal courts tend to take a dim view of ADA violations. Its already been seen in cases involving diabetics in the fire service.
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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post

    I'm having a hard time siding with the Cap on this one. I feel for him and hate to see someone loose their job..etc because of the condition. At the same time it may be a reality that his medication condition may take him off the line. The department should work with him better to find alternatives and not just cut him loose, however.
    While it may be a reality that this medical condition could cut short his time in the field, the most important thing to take from this situation rests with the arbitrator's decision.

    The City didn't follow the proper rules and procedures when handling this situation. They attempted to enforce a non-applicable rule for the situation and then dismissed an employee that could've been reassigned to a non-operations position until fully ready to go back into the field. Something they've done previously for others.

    The City wasn't "wrong" for trying to address what they may have felt was a "safety" or "liablity exposure", they just didn't handle it properly and that was essentially the finding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1983 View Post
    Exactly. The city will most likely lose this case, and the good Capt will be back at work, though I would guess not on line. The federal courts tend to take a dim view of ADA violations. Its already been seen in cases involving diabetics in the fire service.
    They've already lost this case via the grievance process. Not sure if they plan to appeal, but they may still need to be worried about a civil suit.

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    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Palm Beach Post

    A former West Palm Beach firefighter/paramedic sued the city on Friday, saying she was discriminated against and terminated because she is epileptic.

    Jamie Moore was hired in December 1993 and removed from her job in May 2006 even though she was able to perform all her duties, according to the lawsuit. She was demoted to the job of dispatcher at lower wages and benefits. She was forced to resign that job when she was threatened with being fired if she didn't improve, she says.

    Moore filed a grievance under a collective bargaining agreement, and in January an arbitrator concluded that the city did not have cause to fire her and ordered her reinstated. The city is going to appeal, according to the lawsuit.

    Moore is seeking damages for lost wages, benefits and pension losses, and reinstatement to her firefighter/paramedic job.

    Nobody in the city attorney's office could be reached for comment late Friday.
    If your going to cry about doing the job you signed up for do us all a favor and quit, there are plenty of dedicated people standing in line for the best job in the world.

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    So my question is can you be denied employment if you have it and have it under control ? and what do guys think about working with a guy who has it if they are allowed to be a firefighter ?

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    The good Capt. is getting the shaft, hard.

    As long as he is seizure free for a period (say 6 months) then there should be no problem. Sure, it's not a 100% but then again, nothing is 100%. I could tip over tonight with a brain tumor or some crap like that.

    People that are epileptic can and have been doing the job for many many years and should continue to do so. That is like telling a diabetic or somoene that is color blind they can't work.
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    I know exactly what this Capt. is going through. I ended up having a seizure shortly after I reported for duty one morning in 2002. I was 28 years old at the time and had never had a seizure prior to that date. I remained on the line until December of the same year when I had another seizure and was placed on paid administrative leave. I knew that it was in the best interest of my brother and sister firefighters that I did not need to be fighting fire on-line anymore. They placed me on administrative leave until the new Fire Prevention Officer position was created about a month and a half later. I willingly took the FPO position not only to remain in the department, but also because I had already be doing some of the prevention duties while on shift. I enjoyed my time as FPO. I held this position until August 2005 when the administration decided that the seizure that I had that July was going to create too much overtime for the Prevention Division and they needed to get someone into the FPO spot that wouldnt have driving restrictions. I was then terminated due to the fact that, in their words "they could not accomodate my epilepsy any longer and that I was a burden on the city budget".
    One of the things that really bothered me was that they kept saying that my case fell under NFPA 1582 (Firefighter Health and Safety). I took it upon myself to look up the standard to see what it said. I also found that it included several other issues that were "disqualifications" for firefighters that individuals within the department fell under. For example, one firefighter has MS and is currently still on line fighting fire. Others were multiple joint replacement surgeries and spinal surgery. All of these were considered to disqualify and individual from service. Yet mine was the only one that the city targeted.
    I took my case to an attorney and to the local chapter of the ACLU. Both of them thought that I had a good case. After spending thousands of dollars to fight my case, the city claimed that my dismisal had nothing to do with my epilepsy but was rather disciplinary because I had supposedly taken my lunch hour too early and was causing problems. I was completely shocked. As a member of the departments IAFF Local I had asked for assistance and was denied any help because they were in the middle of contract negotiations and they did not want to hurt their chances of getting raises. I then took my claim to the State Professional Fire Fighters council to seek assistance there, I was told that if my home Local was not going to support my claim they could not help me either.
    I was devistated, after giving almost 12 years of service to the department I was let go. I miss my time in the department more than anything. I am now working, as a dispatcher and I guess I should be happy that I have a job. I would give anything to get back into the fire service, if even in a role that did not require actual fighting fire.

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    So we have this Captain who has been determined not to be medically fit to fight fires, and the city cannot fire him? As a minimum he should be reassigned.

    We hear all the time how we need PT standards and annual physicals to make sure our FF are fit to do the job. Seems if you are unfit for the job then there is no other option.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    So we have this Captain who has been determined not to be medically fit to fight fires, and the city cannot fire him? As a minimum he should be reassigned.
    Sorry, but you're an idiot.

    Did you even read the article in the initial post? This Captain WAS found to be "medically fit" to return to work by his doctor, a neurologist at that! The problem started when a "City doctor" pretty much poked his nose where it didn't belong.

    If the City has a specific policy requiring him to be seizure-free and off meds for a year before returning to work and the Captain was still on meds, then why would the City's doctor need to call his doctor regarding the issue? Wouldn't it simply be an administrative issue at that point?

    As I understand the situation, the "standard" that the City was citing to take the action that they did, was not a "City policy" and it was improperly applied to the situation. Regardless, it appears to be a pretty clear violation of the ADA laws.

    We hear all the time how we need PT standards and annual physicals to make sure our FF are fit to do the job. Seems if you are unfit for the job then there is no other option.
    I would definately agree that a person needs to go if they are truly unfit for the job, but what constitutes being "unfit"? Who makes that decision? Will it be the same standard for my department as it is for yours?

    I don't see the diagnosis of epilepsy to specifically constitute being "unfit". Yes, the person could have another seizure at any point, but with proper medical care/medications they may never have another one. If we simply "toss out" anybody diagnosed with epilepsy (for "safety" reasons), then we have to "toss out" anybody who's had a heart attack, has diabetes or any number of other medical conditions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireMedic049 View Post
    Sorry, but you're an idiot.

    Did you even read the article in the initial post? This Captain WAS found to be "medically fit" to return to work by his doctor, a neurologist at that! The problem started when a "City doctor" pretty much poked his nose where it didn't belong.

    If the City has a specific policy requiring him to be seizure-free and off meds for a year before returning to work and the Captain was still on meds, then why would the City's doctor need to call his doctor regarding the issue? Wouldn't it simply be an administrative issue at that point?

    As I understand the situation, the "standard" that the City was citing to take the action that they did, was not a "City policy" and it was improperly applied to the situation. Regardless, it appears to be a pretty clear violation of the ADA laws.

    I would definately agree that a person needs to go if they are truly unfit for the job, but what constitutes being "unfit"? Who makes that decision? Will it be the same standard for my department as it is for yours?

    I don't see the diagnosis of epilepsy to specifically constitute being "unfit". Yes, the person could have another seizure at any point, but with proper medical care/medications they may never have another one. If we simply "toss out" anybody diagnosed with epilepsy (for "safety" reasons), then we have to "toss out" anybody who's had a heart attack, has diabetes or any number of other medical conditions.
    Sorry, but the city doctor is hired by the city to take of the city. If it is the city policy that he be off meds and seizure free for a year then the doctor was well within his authority to asure policy is maintained. One thing to remember when reading this article. We are hearing from the plaintiffs attorney, so I'm pretty sure the story is slanted. You've heard the saying, his story, her story and the truth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    Sorry, but the city doctor is hired by the city to take of the city. If it is the city policy that he be off meds and seizure free for a year then the doctor was well within his authority to asure policy is maintained. One thing to remember when reading this article. We are hearing from the plaintiffs attorney, so I'm pretty sure the story is slanted. You've heard the saying, his story, her story and the truth.
    Ok, so you are telling me a doctor who does not SPECIALIZE in neurology does not know what he is talking about ? and that a city doc who doesn't specialize in neurology knows more than him ? Yeah OK because that makes sense seriously dude stop doing drugs. Everyday you get worse and worse with your stupid moronic posts. I really do suggest you to see a psychiatrist and a neurologist because you have some severe brain disorders. Get a MRI a Cat scan and anything else because somehow your reality and everyone else's doesn't exist together. Maybe you have a chemical imbalance. And just to make this more known to everyone on how much you know NOTHING...you run 300 calls a year which is why im not surprised you live in the world that you do. Seriously go get that checkup by a doctor that is licensed and has a doctors office.

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    we can go back and forth about him being able to return to suppression duties, but there is no way this guy should be terminated.

    He has 27 years on? Probably be useful in the training division, codes, chief's office, supply, send him to investigator training and let him work Arson.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    Sorry, but the city doctor is hired by the city to take of the city.
    Maybe so, but did he have the standing to get involved to the extend that happened. Since the guy's burning up sick & vacation time rather than being on medical leave, I'm thinking the seizure didn't take place on-duty. So why is the City's doctor involved? Unless he missed more than 3 shifts in a row, he wouldn't have to submit a note as to why he was off. So why would the City's doctor call the employees doctor?

    If it is the city policy that he be off meds and seizure free for a year then the doctor was well within his authority to asure policy is maintained.
    You need to pay more attention to what you read. The "policy" being applied is in question. I'm not 100% clear if there is a City policy in place or if they are trying to apply an "outside" policy, but it's my understanding the contention is that it's the later and it's being improperly applied.

    You also missed the point. If said policy exists and the employee is still on anti-seizure medication, then there's no need to have the City doctor involved. You don't need the doctor's input, it's now an administrative issue. Employee on meds = not allowed to work.

    One thing to remember when reading this article. We are hearing from the plaintiffs attorney, so I'm pretty sure the story is slanted. You've heard the saying, his story, her story and the truth.
    Yes, but this is taking place in my neck of the woods and I have other sources of information than just this one article. Did you miss the part about other firefighters having had seizures and remaining on the job?
    Last edited by FireMedic049; 05-06-2009 at 08:05 PM.

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    Put the good Captain on light duty, or in inspections, or training or whatever for 6 months or a year to show he will be seizure free. have him attend company training to do physical activities to show he can still perform and remain seizure free. At the end of the 6 months or year if he has been seizure free put him back on the line. If not, disability him out instead of firing him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Put the good Captain on light duty, or in inspections, or training or whatever for 6 months or a year to show he will be seizure free. have him attend company training to do physical activities to show he can still perform and remain seizure free. At the end of the 6 months or year if he has been seizure free put him back on the line. If not, disability him out instead of firing him.

    Exactly. In Washington, as well as most other places I'm sure, epilepsy and other seizure disorders disqualify applicants for employment, and result in either a non-suppression assignment or disabilty retirement if developed once on the job.

    I feel for any brother that has something like this happen, but he can't work in suppression with an uncontrolled seizure disorder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    He has 27 years on? Probably be useful in the training division, codes, chief's office, supply, send him to investigator training and let him work Arson.
    Wow. Something reasonable coming from you. I'm surprised. Good job, keep taking those meds.


    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Put the good Captain on light duty, or in inspections, or training or whatever for 6 months or a year to show he will be seizure free. have him attend company training to do physical activities to show he can still perform and remain seizure free. At the end of the 6 months or year if he has been seizure free put him back on the line. If not, disability him out instead of firing him.

    I agree. This is just the City trying to rid themselves of paying a pension. Yeah, a lot of help the local was too huh? "sorry, we can't help you because it could hurt our chances with negotiations." If that is true.....THAT IS TOTAL CRAP!!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by eaglesrule1024 View Post
    Ok, so you are telling me a doctor who does not SPECIALIZE in neurology does not know what he is talking about ? and that a city doc who doesn't specialize in neurology knows more than him ? Yeah OK because that makes sense seriously dude stop doing drugs. Everyday you get worse and worse with your stupid moronic posts. I really do suggest you to see a psychiatrist and a neurologist because you have some severe brain disorders. Get a MRI a Cat scan and anything else because somehow your reality and everyone else's doesn't exist together. Maybe you have a chemical imbalance. And just to make this more known to everyone on how much you know NOTHING...you run 300 calls a year which is why im not surprised you live in the world that you do. Seriously go get that checkup by a doctor that is licensed and has a doctors office.

    Rob
    I'm not saying whether the employees doctor or the cities doctor is more qualified. What I am saying is that the cities doctor has the responsibility to make sure the employees are fit for the job. If the employees doctor doesn't know the city policy then he could easily screw up. It is also well within the rights of the city to get a second opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireMedic049 View Post
    Maybe so, but did he have the standing to get involved to the extend that happened. Since the guy's burning up sick & vacation time rather than being on medical leave, I'm thinking the seizure didn't take place on-duty. So why is the City's doctor involved? Unless he missed more than 3 shifts in a row, he wouldn't have to submit a note as to why he was off. So why would the City's doctor call the employees doctor?
    It is well within the cities right to get a second opinion. And if the seizure didn't take place while on duty is really of no consequence, the city needs to make sure you are able to perform the duties assigned. It would be no different than trying to get hired in the first place.

    You need to pay more attention to what you read. The "policy" being applied is in question. I'm not 100% clear if there is a City policy in place or if they are trying to apply an "outside" policy, but it's my understanding the contention is that it's the later and it's being improperly applied.
    That is according to the employees lawyer. Take that with a grain of salt.

    You also missed the point. If said policy exists and the employee is still on anti-seizure medication, then there's no need to have the City doctor involved. You don't need the doctor's input, it's now an administrative issue. Employee on meds = not allowed to work.
    So you agree with the cities doctor?

    Yes, but this is taking place in my neck of the woods and I have other sources of information than just this one article. Did you miss the part about other firefighters having had seizures and remaining on the job?
    You mean this "There have been gentlemen before who had seizures who went right back to work," Capt. Cerminara said. "They put me on medication, and I haven't had any problem since."
    This is coming from the captain without any backup or specifics. Was it the same kind of seizure? How long did they wait? But the better question becomes why haven't they offered him a desk job? I have seen numerous times when people are put on light duty and they get to work. Employers are usually very accommodating with that kind of thing.

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    We've been through this and no matter what the neuro doc says, the city doc is probably applying the medical requirements of 1910.134 (respirator) which use ANSI Z88.6 as a reference. The ANSI standard is clear that you must be seizure free for 1 year. That being said, I'm sure there is some light duty for the Cap somewhere.

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    It would be both morally and financially reprehensible for the city to simply fire him. 27 years of experience is worth its weigjht in gold. As several have said, put him into training, recruitment, administrative even. Up here 20 years qualifies for full pension but you cannot start collecting until age 60. You don't just discard a person who has given most of his adult life to the community like this man has.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BryanLoader View Post
    It would be both morally and financially reprehensible for the city to simply fire him. 27 years of experience is worth its weigjht in gold. As several have said, put him into training, recruitment, administrative even. Up here 20 years qualifies for full pension but you cannot start collecting until age 60. You don't just discard a person who has given most of his adult life to the community like this man has.
    My thoughts exactly, which makes me wonder what the rest of the story is.

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    You change horses quick!


    What a back stabber.

    Have you no compassion for a Brother Firefighter? Or do you care as much as you have perceived to be.

    Make up your mind and stick to your statement and stop straddling the fence and switching up in the middle of the stream.


    This member didn't want to have this health problem. In fact being near his 30 years he can best be used in the prevention or training office. If nothing else give him a vehicle and let him ride the city checking hydrants!!!

    We are supposed to look after the older members if they have problems.
    Last edited by CaptOldTimer; 05-07-2009 at 03:45 PM.
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