A federal jury has awarded a demoted Minneapolis firefighter $420,000 and yet-to-be-determined attorneys' fees for a 2009 demotion from the position of deputy chief by the fire chief at the time of her employment. The jury agreed that she was wrongly demoted because of employment discrimination. The demoted employee argued that the chief's actions had resulted in emotional distress and that she lost many thousands of dollars due to decreased salary and benefits.
The federal jury of five women and seven men ordered the city of Minneapolis city to pay the firefighter her back salary and $300,000 in punitive damages.
The former fire chief claimed that demotion of the employee was because working with the then-deputy chief was not easy. Her demotion, however, occurred after she had written an anonymous and negative evaluation of the fire chief's performance. The demoted employee's attorney argued that the fire chief's decision was motivated by revenge and constituted retaliation by her employer, indirectly a violation of the demoted firefighter's First Amendment rights.
According to a statement issued by the Minneapolis city attorney, city officials are not happy with the jury's decision and are considering an appeal. The authorities believe that the fire chief acted in good faith. During the trial, the assistant city attorney said the deputy chief firefighter was demoted because her working style did not match that of the fire chief, which is a more laid-back management approach. Testimony was also given that the fire chief was not upset by the demoted firefighter's criticism but found it difficult to work with her.
Although the judgment is against the former fire chief, the city of Minneapolis will have to pay the compensation and attorney's fee once the court settles on the amount.
Source: MPR news, "Jury awards demoted Mpls firefighter $420K," Brandt Williams, Dec. 20, 2012