San Francisco Firefighters Fired Over COVID19 Vaccine Mandate File Suit

Twenty-one San Francisco firefighters who were fired for failing to comply with the city’s COVID19 vaccine mandate have filed suit alleging religious discrimination, failure to accommodate religious beliefs under California law, due process violations, and violations of their autonomous privacy rights. The suit was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court naming the city, Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson, and Human Resources Director Carol Isen as defendants.  

The plaintiffs are Michael Kricken, William Amalu, Carl Biscevic, William Boyle, Ira Burroughs, John Cavenaugh, Jeffrey Chedwick,  Michael Crotty, Ryan Crow, Thomas Daggett, Troy Jolliff, Jared Kunkel, Mark Lacroix, Jessica Lindsey, Jessica Beers, Edward McCue, Dana Pompeo, Christopher Sala, Greg Savin, Jack Shanahan and Lief Veimoen. They are seeking reinstatement, damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • Each of the Plaintiffs herein had sincerely held religious beliefs that precluded them from taking any COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Each of plaintiffs provided convincing evidence of their sincerely held religious beliefs to various superiors, and nevertheless, all were denied.
  • Moreover, according to the City, not a single Plaintiff’s religious beliefs could be accommodated, regardless of whether any exemption was granted.
  • This was true despite the fact that the CDC’s understanding of whether or not the COVID-19 vaccines limited and/or diminished the transmissibility of COVID-19 was still developing, uncertain, and therefore speculative.
  • Each Plaintiff, while employed by Defendant, competently and professionally performed all essential job duties of their position above or beyond levels which were expected of them.
  • Defendants discriminated against and took adverse employment action against Plaintiffs due to their good faith religious beliefs/creeds and/or associations.
  • The adverse employment actions were to terminate the employment of Plaintiffs from their long-held positions with Defendants.
  • Defendants violated Plaintiffs religious constitutional right while imposing the least narrowly tailored and most strictive rules and requirements based upon the Defendants Covid Vaccination policies, assertions and implementation.
  • Plaintiffs’ assertion of their long held and good faith religious beliefs was the substantial motivating factor in Defendants’ decision to terminate Plaintiffs employment and the other adverse employment actions taken against Plaintiffs.
  • As a proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, and each of them, Plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer substantial losses in earnings and other employment benefits in an amount to be determined at trial according to proof.
  • As a proximate result of the wrongful conduct of Defendants, and each of them, Plaintiff has suffered humiliation, emotional distress, and mental pain and anguish, all to Plaintiffs damage in an amount to be determined at trial according to proof.
  • In doing the acts herein alleged, Defendants, and each of them, acted with oppression, fraud, and malice, and in conscious disregard of Plaintiffs rights and therefore Plaintiffs are therefore entitled to punitive damages pursuant to California Civil Code section 3294 in an amount to be determined at trial according to proof.
  • Plaintiff has also incurred and continues to incur attorney’s fees and legal expenses, and is entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs of suit as provided in Government Code Section 12965(b) and such other statutory and common law provisions, to be determined at trial according to proof.

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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