- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A jury will hear the discrimination lawsuit of a former York firefighter and paramedic who was fired after breaking her foot.

District Judge John Gerrard on Monday rejected the city of York’s motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit, saying a jury should decide whether Lisa Peter can show that she could have returned to work before running out of leave time.

Peter sued in 2012, saying a city administrator repeatedly denied her requests for light duty after she broke her heel in a non-work-related accident in April 2010. When she was not cleared to work without restrictions after she had exhausted her sick days, vacation and federal medical leave, she was fired and replaced by a man.

Three years earlier, the same administrator cut the weekly work hours of a male York firefighter, who was hospitalized for severe pancreatitis, to ensure he would not run out of leave, her lawsuit says. The firefighter also was placed on light duty instead of fighting fires on regular 24-hour shifts.

Peter’s lawsuit says York violated federal law protecting those with disabilities and forbidding gender discrimination.

The city had argued that the discrepancy happened because the man’s illness was more serious than Peter’s injury, there was no light duty available when Peter was injured and federal law did not require the city to create a light duty position.

Last year, the judge dismissed Peter’s disability discrimination claim, saying that because she could not perform the essential functions of being a firefighter and paramedic with an injured foot, she was not a qualified person under the Americans With Disabilities Act. But he also dismissed some of the city’s arguments, saying he didn’t see the legal relevance of the male firefighter’s illness being more serious than Peter’s injury.

On Monday, Gerrard rejected the city’s argument he should dismiss the lawsuit because Peter was not cleared for light duty until the end of September 2010 and could not have returned to full duty until January 2011 - well after her medical and other leave had been exhausted.

Peter and her physical therapist have testified she could have returned to light duty on July 10, 2010, and full duty on Nov. 1.

Gerrard said the discrepancy and question of discrimination is for a jury to decide.

An attorney for Peter, Kathleen Neary of Lincoln, said her client is looking forward to having a jury render a verdict. Attorneys for the city of York did not immediate return messages Tuesday seeking comment.

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