Salem Oregon Settles Military USERRA Discrimination Claims Against Firefighters

The city of Salem, Oregon has settled the claims of five present and former firefighters alleging discrimination under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). All five were members of the Oregon National Guard.

The firefighters alleged systematic discrimination and retaliation over their participation in military trainings and deployments. The department allegedly gave the firefighters negative performance reviews, refused to accommodate scheduling requests, and even terminated two members during probation.

Under the terms of the settlement the City of Salem has agreed to remain under close Federal scrutiny for the next three years. The city must report any further allegations of military discrimination or retaliation to a Federal court judge and the state Department of Justice (DOJ).

The case was settled today, but the city was apparently miffed that the DOJ publically released the details. Here is a city press release on the matter acknowledging that the case was settled but disputing the allegations of wrongdoing.  City of Salem Press Release

The settlement ends two Federal lawsuits brought last October by two of the five affected firefighters, Daniel Cleveland and William Anderson. Here is the complaint from the Cleveland suit: Cleveland v Salem.  Here is the complaint from the Anderson suit: Anderson v Salem. Both paint a concerning image of the treatment of firefighter-soldiers in the Salem Fire Department.

More on the story.

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.
x

Check Also

Seventh Circuit Quotes Fire Chief’s “Gag-A-Maggot” Comment In Ruling in Department’s Favor

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a district court ruling holding that the City of Loves Park, Illinois did not violate the Constitutional rights of a woman by forcing entry into her home, seizing 37 cats, and condemning her home. A key point in the ruling was the comment of Loves Park Fire Chief Philip Foley that the smell coming from the home could "gag a maggot."

Massachusetts Chief Prevails in First Amendment Photo Case

A lawsuit brought by a Massachusetts firefighter unhappy with the fire chief for requiring his photo to be taken, has been dismissed. Thomas Swartz, a now-retired firefighter-paramedic with the Borne Fire Department, claims Fire Chief Norman Sylvester ordered him to pose for a photo, and suspended him without pay when he refused.