Attorney Jim Hykel Stops Effort To Involuntarily Retire Perfectly Healthy Longmeadow Firefighter
On March 29, 2018, the Hampden County Retirement Board rejected the Town of Longmeadow's effort to involuntarily retire a firefighter in a cowardly attempt to avoid the collective bargaining agreement’s just cause requirement for discharge. Pyle Rome partner Jim Hykel represented the employee.
The Town initially refused to allow the firefighter to return to work following a work-related injury, requiring that he be cleared by multiple Town-appointed physicians. When none of the doctors to whom the Town sent the Firefighter disputed that he could return to work, the Town then removed him from injured-on-duty leave and placed him on administrative leave while it started the process of trying to retire him.
The Town then deducted money from the firefighter’s pay check without his permission and against his will to purchase his time as call firefighter for retirement purposes. Without this additional time, the Town would not have had a legal basis to petition the Retirement Board at all. Longmeadow’s Fire Chief Dearborn acknowledged the firefighter was ready, willing and able to work, claiming instead that this firefighter should be retired because he missed too much time from work due to well-documented and accepted work place injuries between two and five years ago.
The Hampden County Retirement Board first addressed the Town’s purchase of time, finding that it was invalid for the Town to purchase time on a member’s behalf without his assent. It went on to find that an involuntary retirement is “not the vehicle to replace an employer’s obligation to handle budgetary or personnel issues….” The Board thus rejected the Town's application.