A Pennsylvania firefighter who was dismissed after attempting suicide by setting fire to her father's house may proceed in her second suit against her employer for violating with her wrongful termination, a federal judge ruled last week.
Mary Wolski, 50, was the first female firefighter to serve in the city of Erie. Despondent and depressed over the death of her mother, Wolski set fire to a pile of clothes in a bathtub intending to have the smoke kill her. Instead, family members found her unconscious and rushed her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with severe depression.
Four months later she was fired. Chief Anthony Pol wrote in April 2007 that the suicide attempt rendered her "unsuited to be a firefighter, as you pose an ongoing threat to the safety of the public, other firefighters and yourself, having set fire to a residence."
Wolski, who said she had completely recovered, unsuccessfully filed a grievance to get her job back. Then she filed suit, stating that her depression constituted a disability. A jury sided with her last year. A judge ordered the city to rehire her and give her more than $206,000 in back pay and expenses.
The city won a new trial, however, after filing motions raising the issue of whether Wolski had established a "record of" a disability or could prove she had been "regarded as" disabled.
A date for the retrial has not been scheduled.