Texas Lieutenant Sues For Whistleblower Violation

A Texas lieutenant who was fired for being AWOL on December 23, 2017, is suing his department claiming that his discipline is retaliation for his whistleblowing.

Jeramie Casiano was a lieutenant Harris County Emergency Services District 48 Fire Department. He claims that in January, 2017 he reported the “misuse of government property and services” to the President of the ESD 48 Board of Commissioners in writing. Thereafter, he sensed both supervisors and fellow fighters distanced themselves from him.

According to the complaint:

  • On December 16, 2017, following established procedural requirements, Mr. Casiano placed one of his shifts, scheduled for December 23, 2017 up for trade to all other qualified firefighters to pick up.
  • This is common practice among the firefighters in ESD 48 where their schedules suddenly change and are not able to cover a shift they are assigned; in these situations, other firefighters elect to work the shift that is up for trade.
  • This was a practice Mr. Casiano had utilized multiple times through his eight years of service to ESD 48.
  • In this instance, however, no firefighter elected to pick up Mr. Casiano’s December 23, 2017 shift.
  • Attempting to act proactively, because Mr. Casiano knew that he would be unable to attend this shift, Mr. Casiano sent correspondence to the ESD 48 Chief of Operations Fulgham and ESD 48 Battalion Chief Ellis to inform them that he would be unable to attend the December 23, 2017 shift, and that no other firefighter had picked up this shift.
  • Casiano also informed another firefighter scheduled for that shift to inform him that he would be riding in place of Mr. Casiano to avoid as much disruption as possible.
  • All relevant personnel and supervisors were made aware that Mr. Casiano would be unable to make this shift.
  • When Mr. Casiano did not arrive for his December 23, 2017 shift, as his supervisors had been previously noticed, Battalion Chief Ellis made it known to Mr. Casiano’ s fellow firefighters on duty that he was “Absent Without Leave.”
  • Although Mr. Casiano attempted to avoid disruption to this shift as much as possible, he understood that there could be a disciplinary write-up for failing to have another firefighter cover his shift, because Mr. Casiano had witnessed instances of other firefighters not showing up for duty without covering their shift that retained employment with ESD 48.
  • In all relevant employee handbooks issued to Mr. Casiano from ESD 48, there is no description of disciplinary procedures taken for firefighters considered “Absent Without Leave.”
  • Casiano has personally witnessed similarly situated firefighters that were not terminated.
  • Given that Mr. Casiano’s record is exemplary and without disciplinary write-ups, and the fact that similarly situated firefighters were not terminated, it was clear that leadership of ESD 48 took the first opportunity that presented itself to terminate Mr. Casiano as a result of his correspondence outlining the concerns he had regarding leadership and the misuse of government property.

The complaint alleges a violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act, Tex. Gov’t Code, Chapter 554, §554.001. It was filed on April 23, 2018 in Harris County District Court. Casiano is seeking reinstatement, backpay and damages.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Jeramie Casiano v Harris County

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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