The fire continues to burn at McMinnville Fire Department. Joey Sweat is suing the city of McMinnville for “wrongful retaliatory discharge” and has asked for $200,000 in compensation.
Sweat was terminated on March 20, 2014, along with then-fire chief Keith Martin and firefighter Seabert Cox. The terminations came after a year-long unrest within the department with complaints from city firefighters regarding rules enacted by Martin that included eating breakfast before coming to work, no dining out, no use of personal communication devices, and no TV before 5 p.m.
According to court documents, Sweat is claiming he was fired due to his “outspokenness” about the new restrictions that he called “stringent” and about other changes within the department that he claims threatened the safety of firefighters.
“The department also instituted new operational policies that violated the National Fire Protection Association policies and created unacceptable risks both for the firefighters and the citizens of McMinnville.”
Sweat claims that on “Sept. 12, 2013, Plaintiff (Sweat) and fellow Firefighter Derek Rust were inside a burning house attempting to locate the fire’s source. At the same moment, department leadership instructed Lt. Jamie Brown to spray water from high-pressure hoses onto the fire. Knowing that targeting the area with a high-pressure water stream under these circumstances would potentially cause Plaintiff and Firefighter Derek Rust substantial injuries, Lt. Jamie Brown refused to follow leadership’s instruction.”
Four other situations were cited.
In its answer filed with the court, the city denies all of the allegations, cites that Sweat was terminated from his “at will” employment, and claims Sweat is not entitled to any financial relief.
At-will employment is a term used in U.S. labor law for contractual relationships in which an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason (that is, without having to establish just cause for termination), and without warning. Tennessee is an employment at-will state.
Sweat asked for a jury trial.