Arizona Firefighter Claims Termination Related to Union Activities

An Arizona firefighter who was terminated last November, has filed suit claiming the city’s stated reason for firing him was a pretext to retaliate against him for his union activities. Shannon Glynn filed suit against the City of El Mirage and its fire chief alleging violations of the Arizona Employment Protection Act, the Arizona Public Safety Employees Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and his Constitutional rights.

Glynn was hired by El Mirage in March, 2021. He was previously a firefighter with the city of Buckeye. Quoting from the complaint:

  • Prior to working for El Mirage, Mr. Glynn worked for the City of Buckeye Fire Department from approximately January 2005 to January 2019.
  • Mr. Glynn applied to work as a Fire Fighter for El Mirage in October 2020
  • The 2020 Application was a comprehensive, multipage application with a number of background and employment-related questions.
  • Question 8 of the Agency-Wide Questions directed the applicant to provide an answer to the question: “Have you ever been suspended, terminated, or resigned in lieu of termination?” In response to this question, Mr. Glynn answered: “Yes.”
  • Question 9 of the Agency-Wide Questions then directed the applicant to “please explain the circumstances” if the applicant answered “Yes” in response to Question 8. Mr. Glynn responded to Question 9 as follows: “Was terminated by the city of Buckeye after being offered an opportunity to resign from a citizen complaint. Would like the opportunity to provide more details in-person.”
  • After submitting the 2020 Application, Mr. Glynn was interviewed by a City Hiring Board that included a City HR specialist and two (2) El Mirage Fire Captains.
  • During this interview, Mr. Glynn spoke in detail about the circumstances relating to his discharge from Buckeye. He explained that the incident involved a former girlfriend and her ex-husband.
  • While explaining this incident to the Hiring Board, Mr. Glynn acknowledged that he did not appropriately handle the incident and was not completely truthful at the time, but he was remorseful and admitted that he should have better handled the situation.
  • He explained that he has since learned from the incident and has used the learning experience to become a better member of the fire service, as well as an example to others about how poor personal choices can affect one’s career.
  • The Hiring Board thanked Mr. Glynn for providing this information and did not ask any follow-up questions about the incident.
  • Mr. Glynn then participated in a second [and third round interviews].
  • El Mirage ultimately hired Mr. Glynn as a Fire Fighter in March 2021. As a newly hired employee, Mr. Glynn was subject to a one-year probationary period.
  • In October of 2021, Mr. Glynn, seeking a promotion, applied to the position of Fire Engineer with El Mirage.
  • As was the case with the 2020 Application, the 2021 Application included … “Agency-Wide Questions” for the applicant to answer.
  • Question 8 of the Agency-Wide Questions directed the applicant to provide an answer to the question: “Have you ever been suspended, terminated, or resigned in lieu of termination?” In response to this question, Mr. Glynn again answered: “Yes.”
  • Question 9 of the Agency-Wide Questions then directed the applicant to “please explain the circumstances” if the applicant answered “Yes” in response to Question 8. Mr. Glynn responded to Question 9 as follows: “Was terminated by the city of Buckeye after being offered an opportunity to resign from a citizen complaint. Would like the opportunity to provide more details in-person.”
  • In November of 2021, El Mirage promoted Mr. Glynn to Fire Engineer. Because he accepted a new role within the Fire Department, Mr. Glynn began a new, one-year probationary period. Again, Mr. Glynn performed well in this new role, receiving positive feedback from his supervisors and no disciplinary actions.
  • During his employment with the Fire Department, Mr. Glynn was a member and the Vice President of the Northwest Valley Firefighters Association, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4361.
  • As Vice President of the Association, Mr. Glynn was vocal about matters affecting both Local 4361 members and the Fire Department in general.
  • During these communications, Mr. Glynn repeatedly expressed his concerns about high employee turnover in the Fire Department.
  • Additionally, in August 2022, in his capacity as Vice President of Local 4361, Mr. Glynn inquired with the federal Department of Labor about issues relating to fire fighter pay, including overtime pay.
  • In particular, Mr. Glynn believed that El Mirage’s practice of averaging fire fighters’ overtime pay across several workweeks could be a violation of applicable wage and hour laws.
  • Mr. Glynn advised El Mirage that he had submitted this inquiry to DOL.
  • The Association, through Mr. Glynn, also raised concerns about the City’s refusal to follow a December 2021 arbitration decision relating to [a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)].
  • Specifically, Local 4361 filed a grievance relating to the City’s failure to make certain payments to fire fighters as required by the MOU. Although the grievance arbitrator found in favor of the Association and agreed that the MOU required El Mirage to make the payments, El Mirage refused (and to date continues to refuse) to follow the Arbitration Decision.
  • On or about November 4, 2022, Mr. Glynn met with Councilwoman Donna Winston as part of another scheduled meet and greet.
  • Mr. Glynn and Councilwoman Winston discussed some of the same concerns he raised with City management, the Fire Department, and Councilmen Shapera and Delgado [at earlier meet and greet events].
  • A mere three (3) days later, on November 7, 2022, Mr. Glynn was called into a meeting …. [and] informed Mr. Glynn that [he] was being terminated for lying on his employment applications.
  • Additionally, El Mirage took the position that because Mr. Glynn was still a probationary employee at the time of his termination, he had no right to appeal the termination through the City’s administrative process. Indeed, when Mr. Glynn presented evidence that the stated reason for his termination was false, the City responded by stating that he was subject to termination “with or without cause and without recourse.”

The suit alleges that Glynn was being retaliated against because he exercised his First Amendment right to speak on behalf of the union. He also claims the termination violated his First Amendment right to freedom of association; violated A.R.S. § 23-1501, the Arizona Employment Protection Act; violated A.R.S. § 23-1411(A), the Arizona Public Safety Employee Act; and constituted retaliation under the FLSA.

Here is a copy of the complaint.

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.
x

Check Also

NC Firefighters Allege Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation

Two North Carolina firefighters have filed suit claiming they were the victims of a hostile work environment, age discrimination, and retaliation after they complained. Thomas Rumley and Robert Patterson filed separate suits against the City of Graham, Fire Chief Tommy Cole, Captain Jason Moore and City Manager Megan Garner.

California Fire Department Sued Over PCBs in Waste Oil

The San Bernardino County Fire Department is being sued by an environmental contractor over the presence of PCBs in the department’s waste oil. The suit was brought in San Bernardino County Superior Court by Asbury Environmental Services doing business as World Oil Environmental Services.