NJ Firefighter Awarded $3.5 Million for Whistleblower Violation

A Ridgewood, NJ firefighter who claims he was denied a promotion because he reported safety violations at two incidents, has been awarded $3.5 million by a jury. The unanimous verdict was announced yesterday with the entire $3.5 million being awarded for emotional distress.

Kevin Reilly claims he was passed over for promotion to lieutenant because he reported that his superiors violated safety requirements. The two incidents were a structure fire in 2009 and a hazmat incident in 2007.

At the structure fire, Reilly claims a deputy chief ordered him to leave the structure when his low-air alarm went off, but required him to turn over his radio and flashlight. At the hazmat incident, Reilly claims he and other firefighters were told to clean up a spill that should have been left for a hazmat team.

Reilly claims that he reported his concerns to a deputy chief and the fire chief. When he later sought promotion to lieutenant, he was bypassed by less senior and less qualified individuals.

More on the story.


About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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