D.C. Firemen Can Press City Over Retaliation

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge revived claims by two whistle-blowers who criticized how D.C. handles fire investigations, such as the 2007 fire that destroyed the Eastern Market, a historic local landmark.

     Firefighters Gregory Bowyer and Gerald Pennington filed suit in 2009 against the city and Chief Dennis Rubin of the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, alleging racial discrimination, violations of their First Amendment rights and retaliation in violation of the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act.
     They claimed that the city retaliated against them for criticizing fire investigations, including the investigation into the 2007 fire that destroyed the Eastern Market.
     A federal judge threw out their retaliation claims, however, because “the plaintiffs failed to provide notice of the claim to the District of Columbia within six months of their injury.”
     As the parties proceeded with discovery on the remaining claims, the District of Columbia enacted the Whistleblower Protection Amendment Act, which eliminated the requirement the old ordinance’s six-month window.
     U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell agreed Friday to let the amended law apply retroactively to the firefighters’ claims.
     “Although [discretion] … should rarely be used to reconsider prior rulings based on intervening changes in law, the Court believes that reinstatement of the plaintiffs’ previously barred claims is necessary to accomplish justice,” Howell wrote.

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