Baker County Florida is a small county that is part of the Jacksonville metro area and shares a border with Georgia on the north. Like every metropolitan area in the country, the northern part of Florida has issues with how the local police interact with citizens. Police misconduct comes in many forms and residents of the area should be aware that their local department needs to be held accountable for officers’ actions while they are on duty. Even police department employees sometimes find themselves on the receiving end of various forms of misconduct from their superiors and other officers. An incident that involves a sheriff firing employees for their political views can demonstrate how this problem occurs.
Improper Firing of Two Department Employees
The Baker County Sheriff Scotty Rhoden caused controversy over the firing of two employees that had backed his opponent Gerald Gonzales when Rhoden was campaigning for office. Shortly after the campaign had ended, both employees who were known supporters of Rhoden’s opponent were fired for apparent budget concerns. The timing and targeting of these two employees in particular was very questionable.
The two terminated female department employees have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in federal court against the Baker County Sheriff’s Office. Among the demands of the complaint include reinstatement into their previous positions, lost back-pay for the time they were not working, and damages related to the suffering they endured after being fired. One was employed as a file clerk with the department and the other was a human resources specialist. Both had several years of seniority and no other know incidents in their records that would cause them to be terminated.
Incident such as this raise broader concerns about how officers or employees who become unpopular within their own departments can be mistreated in a number of ways. It is common for evidence of police misbehavior to be covered up or destroyed by those who would have access to such materials. In this particular case, the budget concerns were likely used as a pretext to get rid of officers that may not fully comply with their leader’s requests, especially in instances of covering up for others in the department which would require unquestionable allegiance.
How do Wrongful Termination claims work?
In cases that demonstrate that wrongful termination occurred, there needs to be strong evidence that an employer acted inappropriately. This includes a motive against an employee that was either discriminatory, retaliatory, breached an employment contract, or otherwise violated public policy. In this specific instance, it seems that the timing of firing two dutiful employees shortly after an election cycle and the introduction of a new Sheriff would be strong evidence that there was no neutral reason to end their employment. Their main objective would be to show that their political actions motivated their termination and to demonstrate the actual harm they were caused by the actions taken against them.
Activities related to political assembly and voting are also protected under the U.S. Constitution, and employers absolutely cannot take any disciplinary measures against their employees in spite of political viewpoints. In related cases, it is also common for police departments to try to retaliate against employees who leak information about inappropriate behavior occurring within the department.
Get Help from a Lawyer in Florida Now
For help dealing with any kind of police misconduct or brutality in Baker County and surrounding areas, contact a local attorney. A lawyer who specializes in bringing lawsuits against police departments can give specific advice related to your situation.