Terminated Minnesota Fire Captain Sues Claiming Disability Discrimination

A Minnesota fire captain who was terminated earlier this year when he was unable to return to duty due to PTSD, has filed suit alleging disability discrimination. Joseph Tiedeman filed suit against the City of Brooklyn Park claiming that its decision to terminate him in March, 2022, violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

Captain Tiedman claims he was suffering from PTSD and was suicidal when he went off in September, 2021. The PTSD diagnosis was confirmed by medical professionals, as were two suicide attempts, one in September and on in October. In March, 2022, Tiedman was reevaluated and found to still be unfit for duty. His clinician recommended he continue in therapy and that he be reevaluated in September, 2022. He was terminated on May 6, 2022.

The city contends that Tiedman was “unfit” to continue working as a firefighter, and that his “absence has had a significant adverse impact on the day-today operations of the department.” The Star Tribune quoted from a statement issued by the city’s attorney Susan Tindal, stating:

  • “The City accommodated Mr. Tiedeman with a leave for 7 1/2 months. Mr. Tiedeman was found not to be fit for duty as a Fire Captain with no definite timeline for a possible return. The City did not arrive at the decision to terminate Mr. Tiedeman’s employment lightly, but an indefinite leave of absence was a hardship for the City.”

Tiedman’s suit argues that he continued in treatment, has had no relapses, and would have been cleared to return to duty in September had the city not terminated him.

The suit alleges two violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, Minn. Stat. § 363A.01, et seq., one count of disability discrimination and one count of “reprisal.” 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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