Four paramedics who have been suspended from the Los Angeles Fire Department for being too plump sued the city Wednesday, claiming the weight requirements violate their civil rights.
The four and their union, the United Paramedics of Los Angeles, contend in their U.S. District Court suit that the Fire Department’s maximum weights are arbitrary and capricious and bear no relation to their ability to do their jobs.
The paramedics, Kathleen Hegwer, James Just, Douglas McMillen and James Schilling, have not lost their jobs, their attorney, Diane Marchant said, but they have either been suspended without pay or ordered suspended for periods ranging from four to 60 days for violating the weight standards.
The paramedics seek a court order halting enforcement of the regulations plus $10,000 each in damages.
“Basically, the Fire Department just doesn’t like the look of people who are overweight,” Marchant said. “It’s an invasion of privacy. A person is entitled to have some autonomy over their own body unless the government has some compelling interest in what you look like.”
Battalion Chief Dean Cathey said the weight maximums are part of a fitness program established in 1970 to ensure top-notch health among firefighters and paramedics.