Baltimore County Now
Michael E. Field, County Attorney
Baltimore County settled three federal law suits filed by two former firefighters and one former police officer in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. The two former firefighters have been offered an opportunity to return to county service in the Fire Department in light duty capacities and the former police officer will receive some modifications to his retirement benefits.
These settlements honor these employees for their past service while also ensuring that firefighters and police officers who serve the residents of Baltimore County are working in jobs that match their physical abilities for the safety of all. Residents of Baltimore County demand no less than this.
On September 5, 2012, former firefighters Donald Becker and Stanley Kuklinski and former police officer Michael Lauenstein filed separate federal law suits against Baltimore County alleging that the County had violated the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. All three were receiving retirement benefits from the County retirement system at the time they filed suit.
The County was confident that it would prevail in all three cases because the county believed that, at the time of their retirements, all three were incapable of performing the “essential functions” of their jobs. However, the County has recently implemented an expanded light duty policy and the Administration decided that it might be able to settle two of the cases by inviting the plaintiffs to return to county service in a light duty capacity. As Director of Human Resources George Gay wrote in an email to all County employees about the expanded policy:
The new policy provides greater accommodations for employees who are sick or injured but still capable of performing valuable work for the County’s taxpayers. These expanded light duty opportunities will allow more County employees to remain productive while conserving their sick leave for when they are completely unable to work.
The plaintiffs will also receive $20,000 each in “compensatory damages” and attorneys’ fees totaling $47,377.50 for all three cases. In settling these cases, the County does not admit liability.