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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of New York

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

United States Obtains Settlement From City Of New York Over Failure To Reasonably Accommodate Disabled Firefighter Who Was 9/11 First Responder

Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, today announced the filing of a settlement agreement with the City of New York regarding allegations that the Fire Department (FDNY) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to reasonably accommodate a disabled firefighter.  

The United States’ complaint was brought on behalf of Gerald Snell, a former FDNY fire captain who suffered irreversible lung damage while participating in search, rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center site in New York City after September 11, 2001.  The complaint alleges that the FDNY failed to reasonably accommodate Mr. Snell’s disability and forced him to retire despite his desire to remain with the FDNY in a non-firefighting capacity. 

Under the Settlement Agreement, the FDNY has agreed to pay Snell back pay and to adjust his monthly pension payments.  In addition, the FDNY has agreed to create and implement written reasonable accommodation procedures that comply with the ADA, which will ensure that all disabled firefighters are offered the opportunity to obtain reasonable accommodation and not be forced to retire if they wish to remain with the FDNY and are qualified for available “off-line” positions that do not involve firefighting duty.

“All New York City firefighters with disabilities – and in particular, 9/11 first responders such as Mr. Snell – are entitled to the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch.  “This includes the right to receive reasonable accommodation in the form of reassignment where appropriate, so that firefighters can continue to serve the people of New York City even if they are no longer physically able to fight fires. Their experience and expertise should not be lost.”

The government’s case is being litigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Landau.

Updated July 2, 2015