Disabled Georgia Fire Lieutenant Claims City Wrongfully Changed Pension Laws To Limit Her Benefits

A Georgia fire lieutenant who was injured in the line of duty, has filed suit claiming her employer defrauded her out of disability pension benefits by changing the rules after she was injured, and delaying her retirement until pension changes could be enacted. Lieutenant Bridgit Christensen filed suit against the City of Decatur in US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

The suit contends that Lt. Christensen was injured in 2016, necessitating spinal fusion surgery.  She sought to retire in May of 2019, but that request was delayed by the city. According to the complaint, Lt. Christensen alleges that when she applied for the pension she was entitled to disability pension benefits of $3,508.81 based on her average earnings of $5,316.38 per month.

On June 3, 2019, the city changed the pension requirements to limit disability pension awards to firefighters who suffered injuries considered “catastrophic.” Her injuries, while disabling, were not considered catastrophic. As a result, the city was only willing to pay her $405.51 per month.

The suit alleges breach of contract, violation of Georgia’s constitutional prohibition of a municipality impairing a contract, fraud and deceit, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, promissory estoppel, violations of equal protection and due process, and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The suit lays out a claim for gender discrimination and retaliation, but her claim is currently with the EEOC who has yet to issue a right to sue letter.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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