Wrongful Termination and Retaliation Suit: California Firefighter Awarded $2.3 Million

In recent news, Todd Milan, 47, was awarded $2.3 million by a Solano County Superior Court jury in a civil wrongful termination and retaliation lawsuit. Milan claimed that he was targeted by a couple of his superior officers after he informed the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of procedure irregularities during a residential fire that occurred on September 29, 2011. When entering the disabled man’s burning mobile home, Milan assumed Captain Erick Diez would enter alongside him. Diez never entered the burning structure, which was a violation of regulations requiring that firefighters always work in pairs. Diez’ failure to enter the structure left Milan inside alone for 90 seconds. Milan also claims that Diez did not have his gloves on when responding to the fire. The resident of the mobile home fire later died.


Workplace Retaliation: Similar to harassment and “hostile workplace,” workplace retaliation is not actually about people in the workplace exacting revenge or getting back at someone else for their behavior. Instead, it is focused more on making them afraid to complain or to assert their right. It is a subtle distinction, but necessary to delineate in certain situations where violations of employment law have occurred.  


Milan also claims that Fire Chief Paige Meyer advised Milan that he would be okay as long as his account of the fire matched those of other firefighters at the scene. Milan’s allegations made it clear that he claimed the City of Vallejo and the Fire Department covered up the events that occurred at this particular fire, which was the focus of an investigation by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. 


After this occurrence, Milan took an examination, which he did not pass. He claims that the Fire Department’s refusal to allow him to re-take the examination was in retaliation for his previous actions in reporting departures from procedure at the September, 29th, 2011 mobile home fire. At the time of the incident in question, Milan was an apprentice firefighter. He is now a teacher for a class for paramedics.


After a nine-week trial, the jury deliberated for two days. They awarded Milan with $2.3 million in compensation for past and future wage losses as well as emotional distress suffered as a result of the event.


If you have information regarding workplace retaliation, please get in touch with the southern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik