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Ex-Firefighter Drops Suit Against Glendale; Records to Be Sealed

July 07, 1988|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

A former Glendale firefighter has agreed to drop a $10-million religious discrimination lawsuit against the city of Glendale in exchange for the city's promise to seal his personnel records.

Under a tentative agreement expected to be presented to the City Council next week, former Glendale firefighter Michael Pomeranz, 34, will receive no money from the city and will not return to city employment, attorneys for both sides said.

In return, the city will withhold comment on Pomeranz's "personal conduct" and will not disclose to prospective employers that Pomeranz was fired, Assistant City Atty. Dennis H. Schuck said.

Pomeranz, an Orthodox Jew, contended in a lawsuit that city officials forced him to give up his job as a firefighter and instead take a desk job because of his religious beliefs. The city later fired Pomeranz for refusing to undergo a city-mandated psychiatric evaluation after he returned from a stress leave.

"This is a full vindication of the city," Schuck said.

Leroy S. Walker, Pomeranz's attorney, disagreed, saying that while his client will not receive any money, he now has a "level of comfort" regarding the city's handling of future discrimination cases.

"There are assurances Michael has gotten regarding discrimination, retaliation and harassment that give him some level of comfort . . . that what he's done has made a difference," Walker said. "We felt we raised the consciousness of the city and felt we made a difference and the settlement agreement reflects that."

Walker declined to elaborate on the city's assurances to Pomeranz. But he did say that the agreement does not ask the city to change any policies affecting discrimination or harassment.

The tentative settlement is expected to be finalized Friday after negotiations over minor wording are completed, attorneys said.

In a lawsuit filed in January, Pomeranz, a five-year veteran of the Fire Department, alleged that the city discriminated against him by refusing him a firefighting position compatible with his religious beliefs. Pomeranz contended that in order to wear a yarmulke at work and to have the Jewish Sabbath free from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, he was forced to accept a Monday-through-Friday job as a fire inspector. He also contended that he was repeatedly harassed by co-workers who mocked his religious practices.

Pomeranz was fired from that job in May, 1987, for repeatedly refusing a city-ordered medical evaluation after taking a two-week stress leave in February, 1987.

City officials granted him a conditional return to the job but terminated him when he would not undergo the exam, Schuck said.

Glendale policy requires that all city employees who take stress leave must first be evaluated by a city-appointed psychiatrist before returning to work, Schuck said.

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