The law firm said that her pension plan with Decatur entitled her to receive at least $3,500 per month, since she became disabled on the job. In June 2019, the city reduced her benefit to roughly $400 a month, according to the lawsuit.
That came as a result of the city’s pension plan being amended on June 3, 2019. The release claims that Arnold told Christensen that the pension plan was never meant to be a disability plan and “that is what Worker’s Compensation is for.”
The lawsuit claims that the city’s legal justification for amending the pension plan was fabricated since the city told the Pension Board and the city’s commissioners that it had to be changed because it didn’t comply with IRS rules and the Georgia Constitution.
Instead, the law firm argues that the 2019 amendment is unconstitutional since it altered the benefit formulas and directly reduced benefit payouts. In addition, the lawsuit claims the city breached its contract with Christensen, since government pension plans are considered contracts between public employers and their employees in Georgia. The lawsuit also alleges that the ordeal violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
“Firefighters like our client who become permanently disabled after responding to a call should get exactly what the City promised them — full retirement benefits,” Attorney Andrew Tate said in the release. “Our client paid into her pension for nearly twenty years and the City stripped it from her overnight with no legal justification.”
Connie Jacobs-Walton, who was the city’s director of human resources until earlier this year, is also a defendant because she’s accused of misleading Christensen into requesting a retirement date after the amendment went into effect, the release said.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and requests a jury trial. The law firm is requesting that Christensen receive her original pension payments along with compensatory and punitive damages against all three defendants.
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