Texas Firefighter-Soldier Claims City Fired Him Over Wage Claim

A Texas firefighter who was terminated after complaining about the way his fire department was calculating his hours and compensation while on Army reserve duty has filed suit alleging retaliation under both the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Bradley R. Casey was a captain with the Horseshoe Bay Fire Department. He was also a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army Reserves. He was terminated on January 31, 2018, just days after Fire Chief Joe Morris warned him not to file suit against the city, and Captain Casey told him he planned to retain an attorney.

As explained in the complaint:

  • [Captain Casey] had received consistently good reviews, until about one week before his termination.
  • He had never been admonished for how he employed fire strategy or tactics, or for not following department policies and procedures, in his 16-year career with Horseshoe Bay.
  • During the first approximately 14 years of his employment with the city, Casey had to use his PTO leave and sick leave to get paid while on military leave.
  • He estimates that he would lose approximately $3,000-$5,000 per year due to this.
  • Furthermore, Casey complained that he would lose overtime pay when his military leave would cut into a workweek in which he would have otherwise been paid overtime had he been working his regular schedule that week.
  • Casey believed in good faith that these pay discrepancies were against the law.
  • His persistence led the city to retain a lawyer approximately 2 years ago to investigate this and advise the city on how to properly administer pay with employees who take military leave.
  • At the meeting about the lawyer’s findings, the lawyer advised that Casey was correct, and that the city is required to provide at least 15 days of paid leave for military members taking leave for service, per year.
  • When Casey began asking the lawyer about how Chapter 437 of the Texas Government Code applies to his unresolved back pay, Fire Chief Joe Morris became angry and ended the meeting.
  • Over the next two years, the city refused to resolve Casey’s pay complaints. Around January 15, 2018, Chief Morris brought Casey into his office for a closed-door meeting. Chief Morris began the meeting with positive comments about the progress of the fire department, and discussed where he would like to take the department in the future. Casey, thinking this would be a good opportunity to discuss the military pay issues further, brought them up and asked if the Chief would help him file a grievance at this time with the city.
  • Chief Morris became very angry, stated that the matter was settled, told Casey that he can hire a lawyer if he wants to, but “trust me, you do not want to be the person who sues the city.”
  • Casey said that he would therefore hire a lawyer to assist him on this.
  • Chief Morris repeated again that Casey doesn’t want to be the person who sues the city.
  • On or about January 21, 2018, Chief Morris called a company evaluation on a last-minute basis, and that was hastily prepared. During the evaluation, Chief Morris treated Casey like he was the worst Fire Captain ever. This was an obvious and sudden turn in how Chief Morris felt about Casey, and it obviously had nothing to do with Casey’s actual job performance and everything to do with Casey’s military pay complaints.
  • On or about January 25, 2018, Casey’s first shift following the company evaluation, Chief Morris ordered Casey onto paid administrative leave pending an “investigation,” and required him to respond to a list of charges by the following morning.
  • On or about January 31, 2018, Casey was instructed to report to the fire department at 0900 hours. He did so, and was terminated.

The suit was filed last week in US District Court for the Western District of Texas.  It alleges a violation of USERRA based on the way the city calculated Captain Casey’s wages and overtime, as well as retaliation under both USERRA and the FLSA. Chief Morris was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit… that’s about the only good news for the fire department in this one.

According to the complaint, the statute of limitations for USERRA violations was eliminated in 2008, allowing Captain Casey to seek damages back to the beginning of his employment (16 years). He is also seeking punitive damages.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Casey v Horseshoe Bay FLSA-USERRA Complaint

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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