BEAUMONT, Texas — A Beaumont EMS worker is taking legal action and suing the City of Beaumont, claiming he and his colleagues are not receiving fair treatment from the city.
Caleb Fenter is an employee with Beaumont Fire and Rescue. He claims that when the City of Beaumont moved the EMS division into the Beaumont Fire Department in 2021, he and his colleagues should have been sworn in as civil service employees.
Instead, they are still considered civilian employees.
Civilian employees work different hours under a different pay structure with fewer benefits. Civil service employees have more rights and benefits, including pay adjustments, insurance, and more time off.
With the support of the firefighter’s union, Fenter has lawyered up to fight for his rights.
Taylor Miller, who is representing Fenter, is a lawyer with Reaud, Morgan & Quinn. Miller said Fenter and other EMS workers save lives every day, work alongside firefighters, and constantly respond to emergency calls.
Miller believes it is time the workers got equal treatment from the city.
"We started researching the law, and looking into the law, and realized he should have the same protections as the firefighters he rides along with because they are both in a civil service department," Miller said.
Miller's main argument will be that, according to Texas Local Government Code 143, an employee of the fire department whose primary duties are to provide emergency medical services is considered to be a firefighter.
“The law says once you put that EMS division into the fire department, they are entitled to the same rights as firefighters," Miller said.
Beaumont officials do not agree with Fenter's claim.
Beaumont City Attorney Sharae Reed shared a statement saying in part, “Mr. Fenter has not met the state minimum qualifications to be a firefighter, nor does his position require a substantial knowledge of firefighting; thus, the city disagrees with his position."
Miller believes it is easy to see the critical role the EMS workers play in saving lives.
“These guys are riding in Beaumont Fire Department vehicles,” Miller said. “They have the same emergency response training as far as saving people's lives and responding to the scene."
Fenter hopes that even if the city does not agree with him, a judge will.
"What we’re seeking is that a judge will tell them, will sign an order saying that they are civil service employees so they can have those protections, so they can feel safe, so their families can feel safe," Miller said.
If a judge sides with Fenter, all EMS workers would be sworn in as civil service employees. The hearings have not begun.
Attorney Reed's full statement:
"I have the upmost respect for the members of the EMS Division as well as the members of Beaumont Fire & Rescue, and the outcome of this lawsuit will not change my position. Mr. Fenter's lawsuit deals with the interpretation of Chapter 143 of the Texas Local Government Code. The positions of both parties are outlined in the motions we have filed in court, but simply put; Mr. Fenter believes he is entitled to be treated as a firefighter because his division was moved under Beaumont Fire & Rescue. Mr. Fenter has not met the state minimum qualifications to be a firefighter nor does his position require a substantial knowledge of firefighting; thus, the City disagrees with his position. I believe the facts and the law surrounding the issues in this lawsuit are very straightforward, and I look forward to presenting the City's case in court."
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