Cal Fire Local Sues To Ensure Seasonal Firefighters Are Protected by the Firefighter Procedural Bill of Rights

CAL FIRE IAFF Local 2881 has filed suit against the California State Personnel Board and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection challenging their refusal to provide seasonal firefighters with the protections of California Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act.

The suit was filed on behalf of Firefighter I Wade Sizemore, who was terminated in 2018 without a full investigation or the benefit of an evidentiary hearing. Sizemore appealed the termination to the California State Personnel Board who concluded it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. Local 2881 filed suit in Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of Sizemore and all similarly situated seasonal firefighters.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • Firefighter I (seasonal) employees are hired-under Gov. Code section 19058 and per Cal. Const., art VII, section 5 can only work up to nine months in a twelve-month period.
  • At the end of the fire season, Sizemore and all other seasonal firefighters are separated from CAL FIRE employment with the right to rehire the next season.
  • Separated seasonal firefighters then receive notices from CAL FIRE before the beginning of the fire season to indicate on what date they will return.
  • Seasonal firefighters do not serve a probationary period.
  • Petitioners are not challenging Respondents’ rights to non-punitively separate seasonal employees at the end of the fire season nor Respondents’ rights to non-punitively separate Limited Term employees at the end of their designated term.
  • Rather, this Petition challenges Respondents’ practice of disciplining or separating such employees early and in response to alleged misconduct, and/or negatively impacting their right to rehire the following fire season, without the ability to have an administrative appeal pursuant to the-Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act (“FFBOR”).
  • Government Code section 3254(b ), states “[P]unitive action or denial of promotion on grounds other than merit shall not be undertaken by any employing department or licensing or certifying agency against any firefighter who has successfully completed the probationary period without providing the firefighter with an opportunity for administrative appeal.”
  • CAL FIRE does not require seasonals and/or L T’s to complete a probationary period.
  • Government Code section 3254.5 requires that the administrative appeal conform to the rules set forth in the Administrative Procedures Act, Government Code sections 11500 et seq.
  • The Administrative Procedures Act provides for a hearing presided over by an Administrative Law Judge, discovery, and the right to examine witnesses, introduce exhibits, and cross-examine opposing witnesses among other procedural protections.

The complaint references two other similarly situated seasonal firefighters who were terminated in 2019, Michael Mullett and Jacob Martin. Here is a copy of the 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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