Tampa Firefighters Sue to Enforce Arbitrator’s Award

Tampa Firefighters, IAFF Local 754, filed suit last week in Hillsborough County Circuit Court to confirm an arbitration award ordering the reinstatement of a firefighter who was terminated last year. The firefighter was terminated following his arrest on charges of solicitation. He was off-duty at the time, but in uniform.

Local 754 contended that the city terminated the firefighter before the final disposition in the case, and lacked just cause for termination. While there are many formulations of just cause, perhaps the simplest is known as the Seven Tests of Just Cause. The seven tests are:

  1. Was there an investigation?
  2. Was the investigation fair?
  3. Did they find proof of guilt?
  4. Was the employer’s rule or order reasonable?
  5. Was the employee aware of the rule or order?
  6. Has this been applied appropriately to others?
  7. Did the “punishment fit the crime?”

Arbitrator John J. Popular II ruled that while the city proved its case, the penalty of discharge was not in line with the penalty given to other employees who committed similar infractions. In other words, Popular found fault with just cause items 6 and 7 in the city’s decision-making. As a result, he ordered the firefighter reinstated, albeit without backpay for the intervening time he was suspended.

The union’s lawsuit seeks to enforce the arbitrator’s decision. Here is a copy of the complaint, along with the arbitrator’s decision.

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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