WASHINGTON - More than 100 former D.C. Fire and EMS members filed a $100 million lawsuit Wednesday over retirement benefits.
In a class action lawsuit, the group alleges they are being illegally deprived of their earned retirement benefits after pension funds were diverted to other uses — including equipment costs.
According to attorney Pam Keith of the Center for Employment Justice, the problem stems from a 2006 merger of what was once separate fire and ambulance services.
"The merger was complicated because D.C. firefighters participated in a life-long defined benefit pension plan, while EMS employees, who were predominantly minorities and women, were part of a less generous city-wide defined contribution 401(a) program," a press release issued by the Center for Employment Justice reads.
Attorney Keith believes the District's decision not to honor its pension obligations is unlawful, and that it wreaks of racial discrimination because almost 70% of the people affected are minorities.
"D.C. Fire and EMS has a long history of devaluing African Americans and women," Keith said. "The decision to divest plaintiffs of their retirements is par for the course."
The lawsuit accuses the agency of violating the law, breach of contract, breach of enforceable promises, and intentional race discrimination, among other claims.
Keith and some of the impacted former first responders will hold a press conference on Thursday at 11 a.m. in front of Fire Engine 31 Station located at 4930 Connecticut Avenue, NW.
FOX 5 reached out to D.C. Fire and EMS for comment. A spokesperson said she has not seen the lawsuit and directed us to the D.C. Attorney General's Office, which has yet to respond to a request for comment.