16 Feb $3.7 Million Settlement of Section 1983 First Amendment Retaliation Claim For Downey Firefighters
Today Brown White & Osborn LLP announced a $3,700,000 settlement in a Section 1983 lawsuit it brought on behalf of the Downey Firemen’s Association and 14 firefighters against the City of Downey and its former Fire Chief Lonald Croom. The City retaliated against the 14 firefighters and their Association for signing a vote of no confidence against then-Chief Croom, in violation of the firefighters’ First Amendment right to free speech.
Thomas M. Brown, Managing Partner of Brown White & Osborn, represented the 14 firefighters and the Association in the lawsuit. “The settlement of the lawsuit for $3.7 million, the reinstatement of two firefighters to paramedic status with full pay, and the removal of all disciplinary files resulting from the retaliation against Association members is a tremendous vindication for our clients, who were the victims of a series of politically charged and vindictive actions by Downey and its officials. The City violated my clients’ constitutional rights by retaliating against them for their speech, by denying them promotions to Battalion Chief, Captain, and Engineer, investigating and disciplining them for spurious allegations of misconduct, and holding up negotiations on their collective bargaining agreement,” said Brown.
Caleb Mason, a Brown White & Osborn litigation partner, noted that the City’s retaliation came in response to the firefighters’ free speech about the City Council’s decision whether to contract with LA County Fire Department for fire services. “This victory by the Downey Firemen’s Association and 14 firefighters is well deserved. Downey’s firefighters are dedicated professionals who risk their lives to ensure the safety of Downey residents. Our Constitution prohibits public entities from suppressing the free speech of their employees on matters of public interest. This settlement proves that public employees can stand up for their rights, and the law is on their side. These guys showed real guts in standing up for their rights, and I’m proud to represent them.” The Downey City Council approved the settlement on February 14, 2017.