FDNY Turns Down Decorated Navy SEAL Because of Age

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A decorated Navy SEAL is in legal limbo with the New York City Fire Department after it denied his application to work as a firefighter because he’s too old by fewer than seven months.

The New York Post profiled Shaun Donovan, who was born on September 11, 1981. He enlisted in the Navy in 2005, has served four tours in the Middle East, and is due to complete his military service in 2020.

The problem is that when he first applied to the FDNY — April 5, 2017 — he was too old by the department’s standards. The age limit is 29 but applicants in the military can add six years. That put him six months and 25 days beyond the upper limit of 35.


“It was a letdown,” said Donovan, who twice traveled to New York City for FDNY testing from his home in San Diego, racking up more than $1,300 in travel expenses. “I was allowed to apply and take the test. At no point was I made aware I was outside any age limit. It just seemed everything was lined up and ready to go.”

Donovan, the Post reported, has earned medals for valor during his time as a SEAL. He nearly aced the FDNY’s written exam, scoring in the top 1%, and then passed the physical test that involved climbing stairs, dragging a hose, and raising a ladder.

Donovan appealed his case to New York City’s Civil Service Commission and might file a lawsuit if the appeal comes up short.

According to the Post, the FDNY has hired several minority firefighters in their 30s and 40s — well beyond the age limit — because it was determined they were discriminated against.


Three hundred forty-three New York City firefighters were killed in the September 11, 2011 terror attacks. Since then, more than 2,500 emergency workers, including members of the FDNY, have been diagnosed with cancer stemming from their time at the World Trade Center site during and after the attacks.


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