10 employees of Eastside Fire & Rescue in King County, Wash. plan to file tort claims for more than $171 million in damages against their old employer for wrongful termination.
According to Fox 13, former firefighter Rocky Martinez was told by the department they wouldn’t accommodate his religious exemption and that he feels betrayed by the agency he devoted a life of service and sacrifice. He told the outlet, "It hurts when I see a unit going by. I should be doing that."
Martinez’s suit alone is seeking more than $15 million in lost future wages and other damages. Martinez and his family are leaving the state over the issue.
Daniel Webster of the WA Civil Rights Council told The Ari Hoffman Show on Talk Radio 570 KVI, "This is happening due to the fact that management cannot find/make accommodations for them (testing/masks) from which they have been perfectly fine with doing for the last 2 years. NOW, they are 'too' infectious? This is also happening at the same time that unvaccinated nurses are being 'rehired' in the King County hospitals (and even in COVID units)."
He added, "Our first responders have been selfless heroes and now our cities want to throw these brave men and women under the bus."
According to the organization, a University of Washington study by Dr. Rea, the King County Medical Director, and published by the CDC, demonstrated that there have been no know transmissions of covid between patients and firefighters when Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is in use.
During a meeting of the board of the department on Thursday, other firefighters pleaded their case. Former captain Frank Dahlquist said, "All we want to do is come back. This is not just a job for us that we’ve put years for training in— it’s a calling."
Firefighter Michael Butcher asked to end the department’s policy of vaccine mandates or termination. "COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. Discrimination in employment is illegal. We all have equal opportunity to get it— no reason to discriminate anybody on their status."
Some of the former employees are volunteering in other jurisdictions.
The fire chief told Fox 13 in a statement that the agency is "prioritizing health and safety for the community abiding by the governor’s vaccine mandate," and that the department is cooperating with investigators from the equal employment opportunity commission.
Hundreds of firefighters in King County who had medical or religious exemptions from Democrat Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate were universally not given accommodations to continue working.
King County Firefighters United told Hoffman that the State of Washington’s vaccine mandate and the Department of Health’s guidelines clearly state healthcare workers and firefighters can continue to work as normal with accommodations. King County fire departments universally denied accommodations for firefighters to remain in patient care settings. Many departments in other counties kept their unvaccinated members working in other capacities.
They added that Eastside Fire & Rescue will be firing almost 10 percent of its line staff workforce with approximately 167 years of combined experience. It was projected to cost approximately $140,000 per lost firefighter to backfill their positions with overtime plus, to hire a new person to replace each employee, between wages, training, and firefighting equipment costs approximately $100,000. That is approximately $240,000 per firefighter lost and that is to get an in-experienced person working.
From January 2022 through March, Eastside has spent $1.2 million in overtime and now faces a staffing crisis as well.
Other departments in the county are having the same problems. According to documents obtained by The Post Millennial, so far in 2022, the Seattle Fire Department was understaffed 69 percent of the time and had to spend more than $11 million in overtime to cover the vacancies.
This was a massive increase from 2021 when the department was not fully staffed 49 percent of the time.
Due to the lack of staffing, units are taken offline which used to be called a "brown out," before the term was deemed racist. 486 units were browned out in 2022, compared to 176 at the same time in 2021.
Thousands of first responders and other state and municipal workers have been terminated due to state, county, and city vaccine mandates.
On Sunday night, the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention (DAJD) in Washington state closed the booking area at their Seattle jail due to a lack of staff.
Staffing has drastically affected not just first responders but also Washington's extensive ferry system.
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