The city of Little Falls settled a lawsuit with former firefighter Lisa Lintner, Aug. 31 related to the Pregnancy and Parental leave Act (PPLA). The issue was settled for a total of $50,000 in claims, costs and attorneys fees, to be paid for by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.
“The city approved the settlement with no admission of liability and accepted Ms. Lintner’s retirement from the Fire Department,” said Susan Tindal, the city’s lawyer.
The $50,000 is not completely covered by insurance, said City Administrator Jon Radermacher, and the city will be responsible for reimbursing the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust $20,000.
“The city has funds reserved for this type of expense and it will not have an impact on future tax rates,” he said.
Radermacher did not comment further on the settlement.
Lintner’s Lawyer, Joshua A. Newville, said he and his client are pleased with the settlement and advised Lintner not to comment for the paper.
According to the court complaint, Lintner pursued action with the city after claiming she was unlawfully denied accommodation and/or leave related to her pregnancy while working at the Little Falls Fire Department.
Lintner has been an on-call firefighter with the city’s Fire Department for more than two decades and was the only female firefighter ever employed by the city, according to the complaint.
Firefighters at the department work on an on-call basis, and are considered full time if they respond to at least 40% of all full department calls over one year.
The complaint noted, “Lintner responded to more than 40% of the full department calls. Lintner also attended every applicable department meeting.”
The story begins in late 2017, when Lintner informed Fire Chief Michael Nieman that she was pregnant and her due date was approximately June 1, 2018. According to the complaint she told Nieman that her doctor considered her pregnancy and childbirth high risk due to various factors, and that she would need accommodations.
At the time, Lintner said, according to the complaint, that she may need to take on a more passive roll on some fire calls, removing herself from dangers related to jumping or inhaling smoke. And for some calls, she may need to be completely excused.
According to the complaint, Nieman approved Lintner’s request.
At the Department meeting, May 1, 2018, Lintner said that she would be unable to respond to calls or attend meetings by the end of May, near her due date, and for the summer while on leave. According to the complaint, Nieman agreed.
From Jan. 1, to May 25, 2018, Linter reportedly attended all monthly department meetings and continued to respond to 40% of all fire calls.
Lintner gave birth May 29, and did not go on any calls and missed one meeting June 5, until returning to active on-call status July 7, 2018.
From that date through the end of the year, Lintner attended all monthly meetings and responded to 43.1% of all full department calls, according to the complaint.
For the entire year, Linter reportedly responded to a total of 42.7% of calls, excluding the time when she was on leave.
After the new year, Lintner reportedly noted that the city did not excuse the calls she missed while on leave, and accommodation she asked for, which meant she missed the minimum percentage required to be full time.
“Lintner missed her 40% annual minimum, responding to only 37.9% of all full-department fire calls (44 of 116, a shortage of three calls), and therefore did not receive pension credit for her 2018 service. In her decades on the Fire Department, Lintner had never missed her call minimum, even with the birth and care of her previous children,” according to the complaint.
Lintner informed both Nieman and City Administrator Jon Radermacher but neither reportedly acknowledged the issue.
“Radermacher denied to follow through with the leave/accommodation. Radermacher focused on the Family and Medical Leave Act and the city’s corresponding policy, and concluded that Lintner — the city’s only female firefighter ever — was not eligible for maternity leave,” said the complaint.
The complaint stated that excusing her from some fire calls would not put a hardship on the city and that the city had previously waived the 40% minimum for several male firefighters.
“Including as late as January 2020 — when Nieman waived the requirement for at least three men who did not meet the minimum,” according to the complaint.
The city’s conduct was deemed unlawful as related to the PPLA which requires an employer to “provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth if she so requests.”
The complaint also stated the city violated the PPLA by not applying Linter’s request for unpaid leave.