Ohio Chief Sues Bosses for $1 Million

An Ohio fire chief has filed a $1 million suit against his employer and his bosses alleging breach of contract, age discrimination and disability discrimination. Bucyrus Fire Chief Jay W. Keller filed suit in US District for the Northern District of Ohio last week naming the City of Bucyrus, Mayor Jeffrey Reser, and Safety-Service Director Jeffrey Wagner as defendants.

The suit alleges that while recuperating from back surgery in 2017, the defendants placed him on unpaid administrative leave and accused him of “using racially insensitive slurs in the workplace and “bullying” employees/member[s] of the Bucyrus City Fire Department”. Chief Keller eventually returned to work, but not before the city required him to pay for and attend professional development training, and “undergo a physical training exercise to determine his fitness to return to duty that did not conform to any of the duties and responsibilities incumbent with his position as the Chief of the Bucyrus Fire Department.”

According to the complaint:

  • Over the course of nearly a year, in order to mitigate his damages and maintain his employment with the Defendant City of Bucyrus, Chief Keller was required by Defendant Mayor Jeffrey Reser and Defendant Safety-Service Director Jeffrey Wagner to undergo unnecessary, age and disability inappropriate trainings and certification for which Plaintiff is now economically liable and for which he has been damaged;
  • Chief Keller was not paid during periods of his contract when he was, in fact, due his normal and regular salary;
  • he was not allowed to work on or otherwise be around the Bucyrus Fire Department for which he was ultimately accountable as chief;
  • he was disciplined for using a device necessary to meet his disability needs in a Defendant City of Bucyrus administrative meeting to which he was invited despite being on leave and under disciplinary sanctions.

The complaint alleges five counts including breach of contract, age discrimination and disability discrimination under state law, and age discrimination and disability discrimination under federal law.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Keller v Bucyrus

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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