City told to rehire blind firefighter Court orders job and $108,000 in back pay.

December 05, 1991|By Michael A. Fletcher | Michael A. Fletcher,Evening Sun Staff

The city has agreed to rehire and pay $108,000 to a former firefighter who was forced to retire after losing his eyesight.

The Board of Estimates yesterday agreed to settle a handicap discrimination lawsuit brought by Henry John Jones III, who was forced into retirement in 1986.

Under the settlement, the city has agreed to rehire Jones in a "meaningful" capacity -- probably as a dispatcher in the Fire Department, according to a statement released by his attorneys, Daniel F. Goldstein and Andrew D. Freeman.

He will return to the city payroll in two weeks, Freeman said.

Jones was named Fireman of the Year and Baltimore's Best Firefighter in 1983. After he went blind from a rare genetic disorder in 1986, he was ordered to retire from the department.

But Jones wanted to keep his job.

In 1987, he tried out for a job as dispatcher but was not allowed to touch any of the equipment and was denied the job, the statement said.

In 1989, he interviewed for the job but again was not hired.

Jones filed suit in federal court in November 1989. He charged that the Fire Department illegally discriminated against him when it refused to hire him as a dispatcher.

Federal law requires employers to make a "reasonable accommodation" for their employees' handicaps.

And, Jones maintained, he could have been a dispatcher or performed other jobs in the Fire Department with the aid of "adaptive technology."

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