Baltimore County Settles Major ADA Case for Over $500k

Baltimore County has reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice and the EEOC over allegations that the county’s police and fire departments unlawfully discriminated against employees and candidates on the basis of disabilities.

The case arose out of a number of allegations and lawsuits dating back years that challenge the county’s approach toward compliance with the American’s With Disabilities’ Act. In 2006 the county required certain employees to undergo medical examinations and answer disability related questions about their medical history that were not job-related or consistent with business necessity. The DOJ alleges that the medical examinations and questions were “overbroad and wholly unrelated to the medical conditions for which the County was purportedly evaluating the employees’ fitness for duty.”

The complaint also alleges that the personnel officer for the Baltimore County Police Department, Robert H. Wickless, tried to raise concerns about the county’s ADA related practices, but was retaliated against in violation of the ADA.

The county is also accused of denying employment to two otherwise qualified EMT applicants for because they have insulin dependent diabetes (Type I Diabetes). This took place in 2010.

Initially, the EEOC sought a voluntary resolution of the case, but was unable to reach a settlement with the county. That prompted the EEOC to turn the case over to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

The county steadfast denied any wrongdoing, but apparently reached a settlement with the DOJ prior to the suit actually being filed on Tuesday. The settlement, filed at the same time as the complaint, requires the county to pay roughly $500,000 to 10 named plaintiffs, one of whom will also be hired as a probationary firefighter in December. The county also agreed to address the concerns that gave rise to the complaints, and submit reports to the DOJ at 6 month intervals on its compliance efforts.

Here is a copy of the complaint. US V Baltimore County COMPLAINT

Here is a copy of the consent decree. US V Baltimore County CONSENT DECREE

Note that the last 2 pages of the consent decree lists the specific awards made to the 10 injured parties.


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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