Oregon Fire District Settles Retaliation Suit for $250k

A lawsuit filed last year by an Oregon fire district employee following her termination, has been settled for $250,000. Linda Hedlund, an executive assistant with the Banks Fire District 13, filed suit in federal court claiming she was the victim of retaliation for exercising her First Amendment Rights and whistleblowing.

Hedlund, who worked for the district for 24 years, claims that she and others within the district had concerns about the decision-making of Fire Chief Rodney Linz relative to his daughter. Hedlund claims that the chief violated “the District’s anti-nepotism policy” by “appointing” his daughter as a volunteer. She further claims he improperly signed-off on his daughter as having met certain requirements she did not have, and allowed her to join a deployable “conflagration team.”

Chief Linz fired Hedlund for insubordination, failure to follow the chain of command, and trying to undermine his authority. Ms. Hedlund reportedly brought her concerns to board members and was accused of creating negativity.

The settlement calls for the district to pay $250,001, with $51,750.45 allocated as economic damages, $63,250.55 as non-economic damages, and $135,000 as attorneys’ fees and costs.

The Banks Post quoted Hedlund as saying: “I am happy that the case is finally over and I hope that the Fire District’s Board will rethink how it addresses employee complaints in the future.”  

Banks Fire District spokesperson Mitch Ward was quoted as saying: “Both parties have resolved the issue amicably.” I would point out the Banks Post is factually incorrect when it says the judge “ruled in favor” of Hedlund. The judge simply approved of the parties agreed to settlement.

Here is a copy of the final judgment:

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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