Union Township, Ohio has a full-time fire department that also employs part-time paramedics. In June 2003, the Fire Chief issued a memorandum that required all part-time employees to be certified as Firefighter IIs and EMTs in order to begin working. The memorandum had an effective date of September 2003. A group of women who were part-time paramedics and were unable to attain the Firefighter II certification sued the Township, contending that the failure of the Township to continue to employ them constituted gender discrimination.
The paramedics pointed to the fact that full-time firefighters were given one year to obtain their certification, not the three months they had been allowed.
A federal court dismissed the lawsuit. While the Court acknowledged that there was no question that the part-time paramedics had been treated differently than full-time firefighters, it chafed at the comparison: “This is not the proper comparison to make because these two groups are not similarly-situated in all respects. First, the most obvious difference is the paramedics were part-time employees who did not receive the same benefits as the full-time firefighters. Second, the two groups had different job duties prior to imposition of the Level II certification requirements. Plaintiffs were paramedics who were not qualified to perform firefighting duties, whereas the full-time firefighters were trained to perform firefighting duties.
“Third, the full-time firefighters were covered by a collective bargaining agreement while the paramedics were not. Each of these distinctions precludes a finding that the paramedics and the full-time firefighters were similarly-situated in all material respects.”
The Court also found that the Township had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for imposing the Level II certification requirement. The Township’s justification – based upon a review of the literature emphasizing the importance of adequate staffing and training levels for safety – was found by the Court to be a reasonable one.
Szurlinski v. Union Township, Ohio, 2006 WL 3043125 (S.D.Ohio 2006).
This article appears in the December 2006 issue