Orlando Firefighter Sues For Wrongful Termination

The Orlando firefighter who was terminated for audio recording the rant of a City Commissioner while on a medical run, has filed suit for wrongful termination and retaliation.

Firefighter-Paramedic Joshua L. Granada was terminated on November 21, 2017, roughly three months after he used his cellphone to record a hostile verbal encounter with City Commissioner Regina Hill. As explained in the complaint:

  • On August 27, 2017, Granada responded, along with other fire department personnel, to a call where City Commissioner Regina Hill was found to be unconscious and unclothed in a hotel room.
  • During the call, Commissioner Hill became conscious and began acting verbally abusive and combative toward the rescue team.
  • Granada, fearing the incident would become one in which his team could have been accused of wrongdoing, made a short audio recording during the encounter.
  • After returning to the station, Granada played the recording in the presence of supervisory personnel and subsequently deleted it.
  • This practice is not out of the ordinary under similar rescue situations and is in fact commonly used to document professionalism.
  • No supervisor present at the time advised Granada not to play the recording or to delete it.
  • Normally, such an action would result in no discipline.
  • At most, such action would result if minor discipline even if the recording was not made in good faith.
  • Nevertheless, the City used the incident as an excuse to terminate Granada.

The basis for Granada’s lawsuit is that he was terminated in retaliation for having filed a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) related workers compensation claim following the Pulse Night Club shooting on June 12, 2016. Granada was one of the first responders on the scene and is credited with having treated and transported numerous victims to area hospitals.

The complaint alleges that fire department supervisors were upset with Granada’s conduct at the shooting, characterizing it as a “glamorized failure to follow protocol.” Supervisors began singling him out for heightened scrutiny and discipline.

Granada claims supervisors excluded him from departmental ceremonies honoring those who responded to the Pulse shooting and were hostile when he received co-honors as Florida State Firefighters Association “Firefighter of the Year” selected by the state fire marshal. The complaint also quotes superiors as saying “post-traumatic stress disorder was ‘bullshit’ and that those complaining of such a condition were ‘pussies’ who needed to ‘man up.’”

The suit was filed today in Orange County Circuit Court. Here is a copy of the complaint: Granada v Orlando

For the Legal Eagles, the complaint is a good read with lots of factual allegations to support the ticky-tack disciplinary write-ups Granada faced leading up to the incident involving Commissioner Hill. In our discipline classes we discuss the importance of investigators remaining objective and not acting like “a dog chasing a rabbit.” Many of the allegations make the investigator/supervisors who interrogated Granada sound exactly like the dog chasing the rabbit.

What is rather surprising about the case is what the complaint does not allege. One would think, given the politics of the situation, that the facts would give rise to a claim for political retaliation, or perhaps disability discrimination, or at least a substantive due process based claim. In addition, the fact that the taking and sharing of the recording was with colleagues and was for the mutual protection of Granada and other firefighters, that punishing him could be characterized as a violation of his right to engage in concerted activities with his colleagues. On the other hand, the deletion of the recording is problematic both from an evidentiary and public records perspective. Perhaps we will see an amended complaint at some point, or perhaps counsel was wise in seeking a theory that does not require too much attention to be focused on the recording.

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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