Mount Vernon Deputy Chief Seeks Back Pay For Suspension

A deputy chief in Mount Vernon, New York who was suspended last September has filed suit claiming his due process rights were violated when he was not compensated for over three months that he went without pay.

Deputy Chief Al-Farid Salahuddin was suspended after a profanity-laden audio recording of him speaking with a fire lieutenant surfaced. Chief Salahuddin was also named in a race discrimination suit earlier this year by a black firefighter who claims he and a captain repeatedly called him “faggot”, “piece of shit”, “white boy lover”, “caterer to the white boys” and “fake brother.” More on that story here.

Chief Salahuddin’s lawsuit was filed last week in US District Court for the Southern District of New York alleges he was never given disciplinary charges nor an opportunity for a hearing. Quoting from the complaint:

  • On or about September 7, 2019, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation by Defendants into unspecified allegations.
  • Plaintiff was advised that this could lead to disciplinary action.
  • On October 1, 2019, Defendants’ Chief of Operations, Edward Stevenson, notified Plaintiff in writing that Plaintiff was placed on unpaid suspension effective immediately pursuant to Chapter 39 of the Fire Department’s Rules and Regulations.
  • Disciplinary charges were neither preferred nor served upon Plaintiff. Nor were any specifics provided to Plaintiff as to the scope of the investigation or reason for the unpaid suspension.
  • As a result of his permanent, protected, status as a Deputy Chief, and by reason of his property right in his position of employment with Defendants, Defendants were not permitted to discipline Plaintiff in the form of a reprimand, withholding of pay, or termination without first satisfying the requirements of providing Plaintiff notice of the specific allegations/charges, an opportunity to be heard and securing a finding of guilt after a trial or hearing.
  • [O]n January 15, 2020, Fire Commissioner Deborah M. Norman advised Plaintiff: “After a careful review of the facts and circumstances surrounding your suspension without pay, and the fact that the investigation conducted by the prior administration failed to yield any disciplinary charges, you are hereby immediately reinstated to your position of Deputy Chief.”

While the city reinstated Chief Salahuddin, he was not given back pay for the time between October 1, 2019 and January 15, 2020. The complaint alleges the city’s conduct violated the fire department’s rules, state laws, and city charter requirements.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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