Fort Bliss Firefighter Sues Army to Get Job Back

EL PASO, Texas --

A Fort Bliss firefighter is taken off the front lines of duty because of his diabetes is now taking the U.S. Army to court over it.

Raul Gonzalez said he lost more than a year's worth of lead firefighter wages, which became a heavy burden on his family.

Gonzalez has had Type 2 diabetes since 1994 and has served with the Fort Bliss Fire Department, as a civilian, for the last 13 years.

But during a mandatory exam last year, a William Beaumont Army Medical Center doctor told him to do "no duties that require physical exertion," according to court documents KFOX 14 weekend anchor Daniel Novick obtained.

Gonzalez's attorney, David Kern, said Gonzalez spent nine months stripped of his duties as lead firefighter and crew chief at Fort Bliss.

"Never had an issue, never had a problem on work, off work with the controlling of my diabetes with insulin," said Gonzalez during an interview with KFOX 14 in late May.

Gonzalez said he had always received excellent performance reviews, had won awards and was promoted in 2008, but because of the orders of one William Beaumont Army Medical Center doctor, he was removed from the job he loved so much.

"I just want to get back to work. I just want my job back," said Gonzalez.

In August, Gonzalez became a firefighter again, but not until this month did he get back the title of lead firefighter and crew chief.

During his year ordeal, he was given a significant cut in pay and benefits, according to Kern.

"It was horrible for him. Obviously it had a lot of financial repercussions on his family," Kern told KFOX 14.

That's why on Friday, a lawsuit landed on the Secretary of the Army's desk, saying Gonzalez "was removed from his position based on stereotypes and prejudices against those with diabetes."

"The Rehabilitation Act certainly protects Raul Gonzalez from being discriminated against as a result of a disability," said Kern.

The complaint said Fort Bliss must "correct unlawful employment practices for civilian firefighters."

"They still have not compensated him for all of his lost earnings, benefits and other damages that he has incurred because of their actions," said Kern.

Fort Bliss spokeswoman Jean Offutt said she could not comment on a pending lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in Judge Kathleen Cardone's U.S. District Court.

Fort Bliss Firefighter Files Lawsuit Against Army

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