Colorado Firefighter Claims Termination Was Retaliation for Reporting Domestic Assault

A Colorado firefighter who was terminated in March, has filed suit alleging gender discrimination, disability discrimination, retaliation, whistleblower violations, and wrongful termination. Jennifer Sokol filed suit against the Los Pinos Fire Protection District in US District Court for the District of Colorado.

Sokol claims that she was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, Matt Misquez, who was also a firefighter with Los Pinos FPD. After undergoing therapy for PTSD she filed domestic assault charges against him. She also sought accommodations from the department to protect her from him.

According to the complaint, the department failed to provide any accommodation to Sokol, and without cause, terminated her employment on March 14, 2023. Quoting from the introductory statement in the complaint:

  • Plaintiff was employed by Los Pinos Fire Protection District as a firefighter/medic from March 2020 until she was abruptly terminated on March 14, 2023.
  • Plaintiff was the victim of domestic violence by a previous boyfriend, Matt Misquez, who was also her co-worker at the District.
  • After a particularly vicious attack, Ms. Sokol ended her relationship with Misquez.
  • She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the attack.
  • After a year of therapy and healing, Plaintiff gained the courage to file criminal charges and reported the assault to LPFPD.
  • Plaintiff also voiced her concerns for her safety as her assailant was still her coworker.
  • Plaintiff had reasonable concerns that after reporting the attack her abuser may retaliate by physically hurting her again or tamper with her equipment that keeps her safe in the line of duty.
  • The District did nothing in response to Plaintiff’s concerns and requests.
  • Plaintiff submitted a request for accommodations.
  • The next day Defendant suspended Plaintiff.
  • The District terminated Plaintiff’s employment less than week after Misquez pled guilty to the criminal charges.
  • The District never engaged in the interactive process with Plaintiff.
  • Defendant relied upon performance deficiencies that had never previously been disclosed or discussed to terminate Plaintiff’s employment.

The complaint lists twelve counts under federal law (Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act) and Colorado law (Public Health Emergency Whistleblower, and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act):

  1. Discrimination and Wrongful Termination in Violation of the PHEW Act for Raising Concerns Protected by the Act
  2. Retaliation in Violation of the PHEW Act for Raising Concerns Protected by the Act
  3. Workplace Policy that Limited or Prevented Disclosures of Information about Workplace Health and Safety Practices in Violation of the PHEW Act
  4. Discrimination and Wrongful Termination because of disability in violation of ADA and ADAAA
  5. Retaliation in violation of the ADA and ADAAA
  6. Failure to accommodate in violation of ADA and ADAAA
  7. Unlawful interference and denial of exercise of rights of victim of domestic violence in violation of CADA
  8. Wrongful discharge for exercising rights as a victim of domestic violence in violation of the CADA
  9. Discrimination and Wrongful Termination because of gender in violation of CADA
  10. Disparate impact of employment practice because of gender in violation of CADA
  11. Retaliation for engaging in activity protected by CADA and Title VII
  12. Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Colorado Public Policy

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.

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