Deaf Firefighter Claims Maryland County Violated Disability Discrimination Laws

An applicant to a volunteer fire department in Prince George’s County who was rejected because he is deaf, has filed suit claiming disability discrimination. Charles Hine filed suit last week in US District Court for the District of Maryland naming Prince George’s County and Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

Hine, who communicates primarily by sign language, claims he served as a volunteer firefighter in Pennsylvania and was able to perform the essential functions of the job without restriction. He submitted a letter of recommendation from his former fire chief as part of his application to the Morningside Volunteer Fire Department. His application was subsequently rejected by the county.

As explained in the complaint:

  • Plaintiff Charles Hine is a deaf individual who is considered disabled under federal, state, and local antidiscrimination laws.
  • When Mr. Hine resided in Pennsylvania, he was a volunteer firefighter with no restrictions on his duties.
  • Mr. Hine applied to work for Defendants as a volunteer firefighter.
  • Defendants have a long history of discriminating against deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
  • Even after Mr. Hine submitted all his medical documents required by Defendants, they insisted Mr. Hine to take an additional test at his own expense.
  • Moreover, Defendants denied Mr. Hine’s application based on their discriminatory policy requiring a hearing ability to become a firefighter.
  • Plaintiff brings this action to compel Defendants to cease unlawful discriminatory practices and implement policies and procedures that will ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing persons are free from discrimination.

The suit alleges a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, and Prince George’s County Code.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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