A White River Township firefighter is suing the department, charging that administrators unfairly restricted his job duties and violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Fire Prevention Chief Eric Brown filed suit in U.S. District Court last week.
Brown, who has a temporal lobe seizure disorder, is asking for restoration of lost pay and vacation time that he was forced to take while battling the department over job restrictions it had placed on him and also is seeking punitive damages, said attorney Andrew Jones.
Fire Department officials have prohibited Brown from driving himself or being on scene during fires, although his pay and job title have not changed.
White River Fire Chief Jeremy Pell didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Brown began suffering the seizures in 2008. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, symptoms of the disorder include head and eye deviation to one side, complete or partial unresponsiveness, explosive screams or laughter, abnormal body posturing and repetitive movements, such as rocking or bicycle pedaling.
After returning to work early last year, the department issued four disciplinary actions to Brown, claiming "he overstepped his job duties, based on the restrictions they placed on him," Jones said.
Shortly thereafter, Brown was put on administrative leave and sought treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he was diagnosed with the seizure disorder. Although cleared to return to work, the department refused, suggesting that he retire and go on disability, Jones said.
Although Brown hasn’t had any other seizures since he began treatment and has been cleared to return to work with no limitations, local fire officials refused to lift the restrictions when he was allowed back to work in October, Jones said.
Brown serves as a fire investigator, so his seizure disorder wouldn’t put other firefighters at risk, Jones added.
"Eric isn’t asking for any special treatment or attention," he said. "He just wants to do his job like any other firefighter."