Firefighters in West Virginia and across the country have extremely dangerous jobs. As a result, they have procedures in place to protect their lives and help ensure the safety of those who need their help. When someone does not follow those procedures, potentially resulting in harm, witnesses should feel comfortable reporting the incident without fear of retaliatory discharge. Unfortunately, one out-of-state firefighter claims that he was a victim of such an action after he accurately reported the events of a fire to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The now 47-year-old man was reportedly an apprentice in 2011 when the incident that led to his termination occurred. According to him, he entered a burning mobile home that contained a disabled man, expecting that another firefighter would enter with him. His lawsuit claims that firefighters are required to work in pairs. However, he asserts that the other man did not enter, leaving the plaintiff alone in the trailer for approximately a minute and a half. The disabled man later died.
The plaintiff claims that the fire chief indicated that his version of events should match others at the scene. However, he was allegedly retaliated against for telling the truth when officials would not allow him to retake a test he failed. After a trial that lasted nine weeks, the jury spent approximately two days deliberating before awarding the man $2.3 million for emotional distress and lost wages.
Unfortunately, incidents of retaliatory discharge can prevent others from coming forward about violations in procedure that could be potentially harmful. Those who have been a victim of such an action in West Virginia have legal options available to them. A conversation with an attorney who has experience with employment law can help a former employee better understand these options.
Source: abc7news.com, "JURY AWARDS VALLEJO FIREFIGHTER $2.3 MILLION FOR WRONGFUL TERMINATION, RETALIATION", March 22, 2016