Oregon Firefighter With Pacemaker Settles Discrimination Suit

A female firefighter from Eugene, Oregon who was prohibited from returning to duty with a pacemaker, has settled a disability and gender discrimination suit against the fire department for $285,000.

Carolyn McCann suffered a cardiac event on December 6, 2006 while participating in training for the Seattle Firefighters stair climb. She subsequently required a pacemaker to be implanted, and was prohibited by the department from returning to full duty.

McCann claimed the Eugene Fire & EMS Department refused to allow her to return despite the fact that her doctor and the department physician concluded that she was capable of safely performing her duties. She filed suit in Federal Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act claiming she was discriminated against on the basis of having a perceived disability. She also alleged disability discrimination under state law, a violation of her equal protection rights, sex discrimination, and retaliation for having filed a workers comp claim for her heart condition.

Besides the fire department, also named in the suit were Fire Chief Randall Groves and Ops Chief Karen Brack. Both were sued in their capacity as officials of the department and personally.

McCann had previously filed a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries over the matter. The bureau concluded in January 2010 that there was substantial evidence to believe McCann has been unlawfully discriminated against.

According to news reports, it was the city’s insurer, not the Eugene Fire Department, that agreed to the settlement. Claims manager Cathy Joseph said the company made its decision on a number of factors, including the costs of litigation.

Here is a copy of the original complaint that sets forth McCann’s version of the events leading up to the suit. McCann v Eugene

More on the story.

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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