Minnesota City to Pay Former Firefighters $3.9 Million

A Minnesota city that eliminated all five of its career firefighters as part of a restructuring in 2015, has agreed to pay those firefighters $3.9 million in damages. The City of Brainerd’s agreement to compensate the firefighters brings to a close a seven-year legal-saga.

On July 6, 2015, the Brainerd City Council eliminated Brainerd’s five career firefighter positions, and adopted a paid-on-call system. Brainerd Firefighters, IAFF Local 4725, challenged the restructuring as violating state labor laws, as well as being retaliation for union members having exercised their free speech rights relative to speaking out against various restructuring efforts. More on those claims and the filing of the suit.

In 2019, the Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the city violated state labor laws, and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. Earlier this year, Crow Wing County District Court granted summary judgment to the firefighters, and concluded that the firefighters were entitled to both reinstatement and an award or damages.

Under the terms of the settlement, the firefighters have agreed not to be reinstated. Here is a copy of the settlement agreement.

More on the story.

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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