Terminated Florida Firefighter Alleges Disability Discrimination

A Florida firefighter-paramedic who was terminated after a cardiac related event in 2023, has filed suit alleging wrongful termination and disability discrimination. Michael Samuels filed suit today in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida against the Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department.

The suit alleges disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, failure to accommodate under the ADA, and wrongful retaliatory discharge in violation of Florida Statutes §440.205. Quoting from the complaint:

  • Mr. Samuels started working for the Fire Department on February 14, 2017, as a firefighter paramedic.
  • On February 23, 2023, he was rushed to the emergency room due to chest pain and heart palpitations.
  • While he was still in the hospital his wife called Don Bock to advise him about his medical situation.
  • Mr. Bock told her to send an email to him and to Mr. Mumper.
  • Mr. Samuels sent the email later that day as instructed.
  • Approximately a week later he received a response from Mr. Mumper informing him that he had been removed from the department.
  • Mr. Mumper also added that Mr. Samuels needed to ask for reinstatement to be presented
  • to the corporate board at the next meeting that would take place around a month or so later.
  • Mr. Samuels did it as they instructed him to do it.
  • On or around March 21, 2023, Mr. Samuels received a letter denying his petition for reinstatement.
  • They perceived Mr. Samuels as a disabled employee who had diminished use of his heart which is the reason why they terminated his employment.
  • Additionally due to Florida Statute 112.18 Defendant knew that any medical condition of the heart suffered by Plaintiff is considered accidental and suffered in the line of duty causing it to become a workers compensation issue.
  • Plaintiff was also terminated due to have a work place accident.

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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