South Carolina Fire Department Sued for Refusing to Rehire Lieutenant Who Resigned

Today’s burning question: Back in 2013 I was facing some bogus criminal charges and my fire chief told me he would have to fire me or I could resign. He said if I resigned he would rehire me once the criminal case was wrapped up. The charges were dismissed and now he is refusing to rehire me. Can I sue?

Answer: Yes, there are several legal theories upon which you can sue. One is promissory estoppel… that is a long story about detrimental reliance yadiyadiyada … but its one option. Another is constructive termination… a theory that your resignation was in essence a wrongful termination. Another is misrepresentation (fraud)… or breach of contract… or maybe even a due process violation…

The problem with cases like this is that it can come down to your word against the chief’s. That makes these cases hard to prove. . . . What’s that – he’s done a similar thing to another firefighter… and that firefighter is now suing… in fact you both hired the same attorney??? And the same attorney has a third suit against the county??? Three suits in 9 months???

*****

A South Carolina fire department is facing a civil suit from a former employee who claims he resigned in reliance upon the fire chief’s assurance he would be rehired once criminal charges against him had been resolved.

Rescue lieutenant Everette Long resigned from Horry County Fire Rescue in July 2013 following an allegation that he stole a USB drive containing photos of his ex-wife’s sister. Long claims the allegations where false and made maliciously by his former in-laws, David and Debbie Jean Collins, who are also named in the suit.

The suit alleges that the Collins’ convinced a friend of theirs who was a Horry County police officer to charge Long with receiving stolen goods. Long denied the charges and they were subsequently dismissed. He claims when he sought reinstatement, Fire Chief Fred Crosby refused to rehire him.

The case is similar to another case filed on April 23, 2014 by Firefighter Kenneth Small. Small claims that Chief Crosby told him he could face criminal prosecution if he didn’t resign immediately following the death of an EMS patient. A third case was filed in December by four firefighters who claim the county reneged on a benefits program.

More on the story.

 

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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