A long-running #legal challenge by a fired #EMT will live on, under a federal court ruling Friday.
This is a legal case, and a case study in frustration, that has roots all the way back to January 1997. That month, Emergency Medical Technician Steven Steinberg was terminated by the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Services. Seven years later, the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals ordered the department to reinstate Steinberg and award him back pay.
"For eight years," U.S. District Judge James Boasberg tartly noted Friday, "the agency did neither."
Steinberg sued, charging violation of two kinds of due process rights: substantive, and procedural. The standard for each is different, and in his 18-page ruling Friday, Boasberg agreed that the procedural due process claim (but not the one involving substantive rights) can proceed.
As Boasberg summed it up, "Steinberg emerged victorious from this administrative process but found that his employer refused to comply."
A lot seems to have been going on behind the curtain here. FEMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, and several other former top officers, were scheduled to be deposed July 30. Keep in mind: when handled by a tough, prepared attorney, depositions can be uncomfortable proceedings. And, as it happened, "just four days" prior to the depositions, Boasberg noted, "Mr. Steinberg received a letter from Chief Ellerbe advising him that he would be conditionally reinstated and awarded retroactive back pay and benefits."
Steinberg says he is permanently disabled, and cannot be restored to his prior position. He stopped appearing for work as an EMT in 1995 when he filed his initial disability claim, actions which eventually led to his termination. Department officials said he was fired for being absent without leave; he says he was wrongfully terminated for filing a workman's compensation claim.
The lawsuit, now shrunk somewhat, will continue.