More COVID Headlines in Fire Law News: From Butt Wipes to Litigation

Another week, another new COVID related headline. The Los Angeles City Fire Department is investigating allegations that a firefighter dropped his pants and wiped his butt with a notice related to his non-compliance with the city’s vaccine requirements.

For those interested in the story, Dave Statter has it covered: THE BUTT WIPE HEARD ROUND THE WORLD. Here is a copy of the complaint letter from the Stentorians about the incident.

I thought it would be interesting to look at the data on COVID-related fire service lawsuits. As of today, I have a grant total of 57 COVID-related cases in the database, 33 of which involve vaccine-related matters. Twelve of the 57 are discipline related, two are criminal (theft of vaccines, theft of vaccine cards), one is an unfair labor practice.

Out of the 57 total cases, 26 are civil suits that challenge COVID vaccine mandates as illegal. The breakdown of the legal theories alleged in the cases is displayed in the table below, with a violation of the 14th Amendment’s due process requirement being the most common. Note that some cases allege multiple legal theories, so the percentages add up to over 100%:

LEGAL THEORY# SuitsPercent
Due Process violation2285%
State law violation1246%
Religious Discrimination1142%
First Amendment violation935%
Disability (ADA) discrimination935%
Privacy violation831%
Equal protection727%
Breach of employment agreement727%
Violation of collective bargaining laws312%

This list is limited to fire service cases. Many other suits (likely in the hundreds) have been filed by teachers, police officers, and others challenging vaccine mandates. No fire service cases filed to date have been successful in terms of a invalidating a vaccine mandate.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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