EDA lawsuit moves to federal court
Jennifer Rios’ wrongful termination lawsuit against Exeter District Ambulance will be heard in U.S. District Court in Fresno
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
EXETER – A wrongful termination lawsuit against Exeter District Ambulance is heading to federal court.
On Jan. 5, Exeter District Ambulance’s (EDA) attorney filed a notice of removal with the Tulare County Superior Court to move the case, originally filed Nov. 28, 2017 by Jennifer Rios, into U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Fresno.
Rios, who worked as a paramedic for the district from 2010-2017, alleged EDA retaliated against her for objecting to, reporting and complaining about possible illegal criminal conduct in the workplace, and specifically by board member Tony Miller. As well the suit alleges the ambulance district and then EDA interim district manage T.J. Fischer violated Rios’ first and fourteenth amendment rights.
Rios was fired on June 30, 2017 when interim district manager T.J. Fischer told her that he had been directed by the “board” to fire her by simply saying “You are an at-will employee and your services are no longer needed.” Rios pointed out in the claim that the board could not have made that decision because it lacked a quorum. Board member Stacy Walter resigned from the Board on May 8 and Board President Allen Sherer and Board Clerk Rob Hubbard had both resigned on June 26 and June 27 respectively before the decision was made.
In the claim, Rios stated that she had several conversations with Sherer about alleged harassment by Miller in February 2017. Later that same month, Rios helped organize a recall campaign against Miller. On May 6, Rios said she was contacted by shift supervisor Casey Randall who reported that EDA’s supply of narcotics were gone from the safe. Rios told Randall to file a police report. Following an interview with the Exeter Police Department where Rios said she believed it was Miller who took the medications, Rios claims that Fischer told her that Miller had “directed” him to re-open an investigation against Rios in regards to an alleged misconduct of which she had already been cleared of in “multiple investigations.”
“I believe that Mr. Miller is targeting myself and several of my colleagues, and has stated such, due to Mrs. Miller attempting to have myself and my colleagues fired due to her job status being in jeopardy. Mr. Miller has a personal vendetta against myself and is creating a hostile work environment, and I feel threatened by him and his tendencies to intimidate people. I am requesting that the Board look into these matters and that they be investigated fully.”
In the letter to Sherer, Rios claimed that Miller removed two boxes of what she claims to be personnel files. Rios said she and Savannah Lester witnessed Miller carry the boxes out of the district manager’s office between 9 p.m. and 10:18 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2017. She says that Miller allegedly had taken items from the personnel cabinet which was to remain locked at all times unless unlocked by the district manager.
The next morning, Rios said she and fellow crew supervisor Matt Caserza arrived at different times to find that their shared office had been locked with a deadbolt. Rios wrote that Caserza called Sherer to ask why the door had been locked.
Rios is suing for general, special, and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and other court costs in excess of $10,000.