Author Archives: 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.

FDNY Settles Harassment Suit With Muslim Firefighter for $225K

A Muslim firefighter who claims he suffered years of harassment because of his race and religion, has settled his federal court lawsuit with the city and a lieutenant. Raheem Hassan filed suit earlier this year alleging race discrimination, religious discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, discrimination under state law, discrimination under city law, and violations of his 1st, 4th, 5th and 14th Amendment Rights.

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Backing Death Case Headed to Ohio Supreme Court

The husband of a woman who was run over by a backing fire truck is appealing a ruling that granted immunity to the fire department. Lorri Riehm, 53, was killed in 2016 when she was run over by a Green Springs Rural Volunteer Fire Department vehicle that was repositioning at the scene of a water rescue incident.

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FDNY Applicant Loses Challenge to Physical Abilities Test

An applicant to FDNY who failed the candidate physical abilities test three times, has lost his race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit to be appointed to the department. Kevin Walker, 47, who was a priority hire, claims the PATs he failed in 2013 were unfairly administered in retaliation for his involvement in the earlier Vulcan Society case

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Top Ten Fire Law Stories for 2018

It's January 1, 2019 and that means it is time for our annual review of the top Fire Law stories from 2018. Let’s start with the 10 most popular headlines based upon Facebook shares and likes:

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DC Firefighter Faces Gun Charges

An off-duty DC firefighter who drew a handgun during a dispute with the seller of a pair of designer sneakers during a transaction gone-bad, is now facing criminal charges as well as departmental charges. Devon Alfred Moore, 24, has been charged with armed robbery, robbery, first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and theft between $100 and $1,500 over the December 20, 2018 incident.

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San Luis Obispo Sued for $5 Million Over 2015 Fire

The owners of two businesses in San Luis Obispo, California that were destroyed by a fire in 2015, have filed suit claiming the fire department’s strategy in extinguishing the blaze was negligent. News coverage of the suit is rather superficial and a copy of the complaint was not available on the San Luis Obispo Superior Court web site. According to The Tribune...

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Indiana Captain Sues Over Race Discrimination

A Fort Wayne captain who requested a demotion last January and resigned in October is suing the city claiming a racially hostile work environment forced him to do both. Elbert Starks claims that starting in 2017 he was subjected to racially hostile comments from co-workers.

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Fire College Employees Sue AFFF Manufacturers For $35 Million

Six former employees of the Florida State Fire College in Ocala who developed thyroid diseases and/or various cancers have filed a class action lawsuit against ten parties they claim were responsible for exposing them to toxic chemicals contained in AFFF. The suit claims the defendants were responsible for bringing AFFF to the college, and that two toxic components of the foam, PFOS and PFOA, caused their illnesses.

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Cincinnati Captain Files Federal Suit Following Firehouse TV Dispute

A Cincinnati fire captain has filed suit claiming he is the victim of sexual harassment and retaliation after he complained to a district chief about a “film” being played on the station television. Captain Janos Roper claims that personnel were watching a “graphic, offensive, and prurient film” that he found to be “repugnant” and “degrading to women.”

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Sun Prairie LODD Explosion Prompts Three Suits

The widow of a Wisconsin firefighter killed in a massive gas explosion in July has filed suit against four companies alleged to have contributed to the blast. Sun Prairie Fire Captain Cory Barr was killed and several other firefighters injured in the explosion that followed a natural gas leak caused when contractor struck a gas main.

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Houston Police-Fire Pay Parity Bill Goes Into Effect

Harris County Judge Randy Wilson has refused to extend a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of a voter-approved initiate to guaranty pay parity between Houston police and firefighters. The initiate known as Proposition B was adopted in November by a 59% majority at the behest of Houston firefighters.

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Marine Vet With PTSD Sues NJ Fire Department Over Rejection

A Marine combat veteran who came out 3rd on the Paterson Fire Department hiring list and was passed over due to his service-related PTSD has filed suit claiming disability discrimination. Brett D’Alessandro filed suit last week naming the City of Patterson, Mayor Jose Torres, Fire Chief Michael Postorino, Deputy Chief Kevin Hancock, and the Institute for Forensic Psychology.

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FLSA, Executive Exemption, Threats and Retaliation

Today’s burning question: The line chiefs in my fire department (deputy and battalion chiefs assigned to shifts) have gotten together to file an FLSA claim. We feel we are improperly classified as being exempt executives when we should be hourly employees. The Fire Chief has publicly stated that if we are successful, he will change our titles to eliminate the word “Chief”. Can he do that?

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