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Conn. firefighter candidate sues city for discrimination

Antonio Dias alleges he was rejected as a firefighter because he has high blood pressure

By Daniel Tepfer
Connecticut Post

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A city resident, who was rejected as a firefighter because he has high blood pressure, has filed a $500,000 federal discrimination lawsuit against the city.

Antonio Dias, 30, claims that although the city’s own doctor said he can perform the duties of a firefighter as long as he takes medication for his high blood pressure the city’s personnel director refused to clear Dias.

“We believe it’s a very strong case for disability discrimination and the decision to withdraw my client’s job offer was based on unjustified fears of a medical condition which is fully controlled through medication,” said Dias’ lawyer, Gary Phelan, of Stratford.

City officials didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

In August, after passing the physical ability test, scoring the fifth highest score on the written exam and passing the psychological exam, Dias received a letter from the city’s Civil Service Commission that he had been accepted as an entry level firefighter, the lawsuit states.

However, the suit states that Dias was told he could not take the required stress test because his blood pressure was too high. The doctor hired by the city to administer the test, Dr. Anja Wagner, prescribed Dias blood pressure medication and rescheduled the stress test. But when Dias reported to take the test staff told him his blood pressure was still too high to take it.

The suit states that Dias subsequently received a letter from the civil service commission disqualifying him as a fire fighter because he did not pass the stress test.

Dias later passed a stress test administered by his own doctor but during an appeal hearing the lawsuit continues that the City’s Personnel Director David Dunn stated the stress test was implemented after two firefighters died in 2011 and no exception would be made for a candidate who did not pass the city-administered stress test.

In addition to the lawsuit, Phelan said Dias has filed a discrimination complaint against the city with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

“His career goal continues to be a firefighter,” Phelan added.

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