SC Firefighter Challenges Termination

A volunteer firefighter for the City of Loris, South Carolina has filed suit claiming he was retaliated against and fired for complaining about allegedly illegal activities by city officials. Robert Rudelitch was dismissed from the Loris Fire Department on October 10, 2020.

Rudelitch, who held the rank of lieutenant and training officer/coordinator, claims his termination was a result of protected activities that he engaged in, including:

  • Informing the fire chief that state funds known as “One Percent” funds could not be used to pay the firehouse cable bill (August, 2020).
  • Submitting an ethics complaint against the city over it’s hiring of a city administrator (August 13, 2020).
  • Emailing the Loris city council with concerns about the city’s “management and planning, financial auditing, and hiring practices” (September 16, 2020).

He contends the city’s response was to suspend him on September 18, 2020, and fire him on October 10, 2020 for false and pretextual reasons. The complaint states that Rudelitch was given a termination letter that said he “was terminated for “unacceptable misconduct,” including disrespect for authority or other conduct that tends to undermine authority; interference with the work of others; threatening, coercing, or intimidating fellow employees; unsatisfactory performance; violation of City policies; and lack of good judgment.”

The suit alleges Rudelitch grieved his termination and prevailed before a “Grievance Committee,” but the city refused to reinstate him. The suit alleges wrongful termination, defamation, a violation of the state’s Wage Payment Act, and unjust enrichment.

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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