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Firefighter's pacemaker discrimination suit settled

Suit alleged that Ore. fire department discriminated against her because of 'perceived disability' after having pacemaker implanted

By FireRescue1 Staff

EUGENE, Ore. — A firefighter in Ore. settled her lawsuit Monday against department officials for discrimination when returning to work after receiving a pacemaker.

Firefighter Carolyn McCann, 43, received a settlement of $285,000, according to the Register-Guard.

The suit alleged that Eugene fire department officials discriminated against her because of her sex, "perceived disability," and retaliation for a worker's compensation claim for the 2007 off-duty incident that stopped her heart.

A cardiologist and the city's medical adviser cleared Firefighter McCann to return to firefighting duties after implantation of the pacemaker, but Firefighter McCann told the Register-Guard that she felt the city tried to punish her and force her to quit.

"... Eugene Fire & EMS officials restricted McCann from firefighter facilities, allowed her only light-duty activities, barred her from training to prepare for a full return, and subjected her to additional, unnecessary medical exams," Firefighter McCann's lawyer said in a statement.

“They required her to prove herself in every aspect of firefighting taught in the entire first year probationary program and more, and then to complete a ‘final exam’ skills demonstration that included cutting up a car without back-up — something that firefighters are not even called upon to do in the field.”

But Eugene Fire Chief Randy Groves said his department is not at fault.

“The city has an obligation to protect the affected employee, the community and our other firefighters when a returning employee is off work for an extended period of time, in this case 18 months, after experiencing a significant medical event,” he said.

The only reason Firefighter McCann's claim was settled out of court, Chief Groves said, was that the city's "excess insurance carrier" decided to do so for purely financial reasons.

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