On March 18, a jury in California awarded $2.3 million in damages to a firefighter who claimed that he was wrongfully terminated for refusing to lie to the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The jury arrived at its verdict after a nine-week long trial in which dozens of other firefighters testified on the plaintiff’s behalf.
The plaintiff said that he wanted to pursue legal actions so that the truth could come out about what happened during a fire. On Sept. 29, 2011, the plaintiff attempted to save a paraplegic man who was trapped in a burning mobile home. The man went into the home thinking that his battalion chief was going in behind him, but no other firefighters followed him in. After trying to pull the disabled man to safety by himself, the plaintiff says that he was forced to leave the building because of the extreme heat. He later learned that his battalion chief hadn’t gone in because he had forgotten his gloves.
When CAL-OSHA interviewed the fire department about the fire, the battalion chief told investigators that the plaintiff was responsible for the man’s death. The plaintiff says that he was fired for telling the agency the truth about what happened in the fire. He said that his bosses were concerned that the truth would lead to citations for protocol violations and a wrongful death lawsuit from the victim’s family.
People who have been fired from their job for refusing to lie to investigators or blowing the whistle on illegal activities may want to learn about their rights from an attorney who has experience in wrongful termination cases. The attorney can note that retaliation in many of these types of circumstances is unlawful.
Source: FOX, “Vallejo firefighter awarded more than $2M in wrongful termination suit,” March 18, 2016