City did not Discriminate Based on Firefighter's Prior Civil Claim

July 13, 2006 ( - The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that the city of Gary, Indiana did not treat retiree Paul Sellars unfairly when it denied him retiree health benefits.

In its opinion, the court noted that Sellars failed to show proof of other similar retirees who were given retiree medical benefits. Sellars only requested retiree medical benefits once a discounted option was offered to retirees who were already covered under the city’s plan.

The appellate court rejected Sellars’ argument that the city treated him differently because of a prior lawsuit. The court also rejected his argument that the Gary Firefighter Service Pension, granted to him in a previous court settlement, included retiree health benefits, according to the court document.

Sellars filed suit against the city following his termination of employment as a firefighter for the City of Gary. A settlement agreement designated April 1, 1997 as Sellars’ retirement date and said he was entitled to a Gary Firefighter Service Pension.

Retirees were allowed to participate in the city’s health insurance plan and were required to pay full price for the benefit. A new collective bargaining agreement, which became effective in 2003, offered discounted health insurance to retirees who elected to participate in the health care plan within 90 days of their retirement, the court document said.

In July 2003 Sellars applied for early receipt of his pension benefits and requested health insurance benefits. Sellars’ request for health insurance was denied because the earlier settlement agreement did not provide for health benefits and even if he were eligible for the benefit, he did not request it within 90 days of his retirement.

Sellars filed a claim for violation of his equal protection rights and for breach of contract. A US District Court granted summary judgment for the city on both claims and the appellate court affirmed the ruling.

The opinion in Sellars v. City of Gary is here .