Florida Firefighter Awarded $850k

A Tallahassee firefighter who was terminated in 2013 has been awarded $850,000 in damages for retaliation, whistleblower violations, and disability discrimination.

Mark DeCarlo filed suit in 2013 claiming he was subjected to discipline and ultimately terminated in retaliation for reporting safety issues within the Tallahassee Fire Department. He also claims he was discriminated against on the basis of a perceived psychological disability.

The action was initially filed in state circuit court, but it was removed to federal court in 2014 at the request of the city. The federal court jury handed down its verdict today.

According to a press release issued by his attorneys:

The lawsuit alleged that the fire department violated his rights in three ways. First, it retaliated against him for reporting defective fire equipment that could have jeopardized the lives of families being rescued during fire calls as well as the lives of the firefighters themselves. Much of the equipment was in shambles. Second, the department falsely painted him as mentally unstable, which gave him rights under a federal law that punishes employers that take action against employees the employer falsely claims is disabled. A third claim alleged that the department punished him for opposing its efforts to portray him as unstable or dangerous.

Here is a copy of the original and amendment complaints: DeCarlo v Tallahassee

Here is a copy of the jury’s verdict form: DeCarlo-Verdict-03-02-2016

Here the press release from his attorneys.

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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