A federal judge in Washington this week ordered the District to hand over information about the wages and hours of emergency responders to the attorneys seeking economic damages for a group of paramedics and firefighters the city discriminated against.
Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia told the city to produce records as part of discovery on issues of lost wages and benefits. Earlier this year, a senior judge said the city is liable for economic damages in the suit, not damages for emotional stress.
The plaintiffs, including Calvert Potter and Steven Chasin, first sued the District in 2001 over the city’s ban against facial hair for firefighters and paramedics. For religious reasons, the plaintiffs refused to shave their beards. City officials maintained facial hair posed a safety hazard for the responders, blocking a complete seal on masks.
Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a trial court ruling that said the facial hair ban violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The appeals court remanded the case back to the trial court for additional proceedings. For background, click here.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Arthur Spitzer of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a motion to compel in October the District to produce employment-related information, including time and attendance records, overtime and retirement benefits. The plaintiffs’ attorneys want to calculate economic damages.
Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU National Capital Area, said the discovery request was first filed in December 2009 and that the District failed to provide the information months ago. “The District of Columbia’s message to the Court is that the District of Columbia does as it pleases and answers to no one,” Spitzer said in court papers this week.
Leon, the judge, gave the District about two weeks to produce the records the plaintiffs’ lawyers want to review.