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D.C. paramedics file $100M lawsuit over single-role pension

Paramedics claim the city has reneged on its promise to count time served before becoming dual-role medics


D.C. Fire and EMS Department/Twitter

By Bill Carey
EMS1 Staff

WASHINGTON — Approximately 100 paramedics with the D.C. Fire and EMS Department have filed a lawsuit against the city for $100 million, claiming they have been deprived of their pension after the funds were diverted to other uses.

For decades firefighters and paramedics earned different pay and retirement benefits. In 2006 the department and the city changed that policy. If the paramedics became certified as firefighters, they would be given credit for the years they served as solo paramedics before becoming dual-role firefighters and paramedics, NBC Washington reported.

“It’s heartbreaking; it’s frustrating,” said Melissa Turner, a 20-year veteran of D.C. Fire and EMS who took advantage of the offer. “We give everything to D.C. to serve the citizens, the visitors. We give it all 24 hours a day. We give it all only to be told by our employer that that time means absolutely nothing.”

Attorney Pam Keith of the Center for Employment Justice believes the District’s decision is unlawful and wreaks of racial discrimination because almost 70% of the employees affected are minorities, WTTG reported.

“The merger was complicated because D.C. firefighters participated in a life-long defined benefit pension plan, while EMS employees, who were predominantly minorities and women, were part of a less generous city-wide defined contribution 401(a) program,” a press release issued by the Center for Employment Justice reads. 

City Administrator Kevin Donahue was not able to comment specifically on the situation because of the pending lawsuit but he did tell NBC Washington that the city is addressing the pension issue, “They are among our most committed, essential civil servants that we have,” he said. “There’s, I think, a good faith agreement right now on what the legal parameters are around retirement, and I think we’ve started processing what the legal basis for their claim is and seeing what the fair thing to do is moving forward.”