LCW Wins Firefighter’s Legal Challenge To His Suspension

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Jan 05, 2023

LCW Partner Geoff Sheldon and Associate Brian Dierzé defeated a firefighter’s legal challenge to his 15-day suspension.  This victory showcases LCW’s expertise in dealing with public employee disciplinary appeals in our state courts.

In this matter, a firefighter was late to his scheduled shift.  Because this was not his first instance of tardiness, his commander verbally reprimanded him.  Instead of apologizing and moving on, the firefighter lied about why he was late and contested whether there was an actual record of his late arrival.  This led to an investigation, which found an instance of dishonesty as well as performance issues.  Because the investigation uncovered dishonesty, the firefighter could have been terminated.  However, he was simply suspended for 15 days.

The firefighter appealed this discipline via a writ of administrative mandamus. That type of writ is a request to a state civil court to review a decision by an administrative body, such as a public employer’s governing body, to determine whether:  1) the decision was lawful, and 2) the punishment was justified.

In this instance, LCW successfully argued that the public entity correctly determined the facts and that the punishment of a 15-day suspension was within the entity’s discretion. The trial court ruled in favor of the public employer.

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