Firefighter Fired for Using Sick Leave to Care for His Family
Files Discrimination Lawsuit Against American Canyon Fire Department
San Francisco – February 3, 2017 – Lawyers for Carlo Teruel, a 34-year old firefighter-paramedic, have filed suit in Napa County Superior Court against American Canyon Fire Protection District and the City of American Canyon. The suit alleges that the defendants violated California state law by terminating Firefighter Teruel’s employment because he used sick leave he had earned to care for his wife and two young sons.
Firefighter Teruel, who is a graduate of UC Davis and a resident of Vallejo, joined the ACFPD with six years of experience as a firefighter-paramedic with the City of Berkeley. During his 18-month probationary period, Firefighter Teruel and his wife, a medical student, had their second son. In the months after their son was born, his wife, toddler, and newborn became ill on several different occasions. Wanting to be there for his wife and young children, Firefighter Teruel took sick leave in order to care for them. The lawsuit alleges that ACFPD management disapproved of Firefighter Teruel’s use of sick leave to care for his family. Seventeen months into his 18-month probationary period, even though he had received consistently positive feedback on his performance and had passed all of his tests, ACFPD fired him.
Among other claims, the complaint alleges that the department engaged in illegal gender stereotyping of Firefighter Teruel, who was punished for breaking with traditional gender roles and taking time off work to be a supportive husband and father. The complaint also alleges that the department violated California laws that protect the right of employees to take leave and sick days to care for ill or disabled family members.
“When I was interviewing for the job,” recalls Firefighter Teruel, “I told them I treated all my patients like family – that was my way of giving the best care as a Firefighter-Paramedic. I didn’t think my own family would be punished for needing me home to care for them.”
“There are still outdated attitudes in many industries, especially industries like firefighting that historically have hired mostly men, where people think men should be the breadwinners, and women should be the caregivers,” said Jennifer Liu, one of the lawyers representing Firefighter Teruel. Sharon Vinick, another lawyer representing Firefighter Teruel, stated, “We hope Firefighter Teruel’s case will establish that men should not have to risk their jobs in order to be active fathers.”
Mr. Teruel is represented by Jennifer Liu of The Liu Law Firm, P.C. and Sharon Vinick and Leslie Levy of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP.
The case is Carlo Teruel v. American Canyon Fire Protection District, et al., Napa County Superior Court, Case No. 17CV000119.
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The Liu Law Firm, P.C. is a San Francisco-based employee rights law firm representing employees nationwide in areas such as wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, breach of contract, employment contracts, severance negotiations, and wage and hour violations. More information at liulawpc.com.
The partners of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP have, collectively, represented plaintiffs in employment cases for almost a century. Our current practice reflects our commitment to helping employees remedy problems that have occurred in the workplace. We represent employees in state and federal courts, as well as in arbitration and mediation. More information at levyvinick.com.