CHULA VISTA, CA – Chula Vista has settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former deputy fire chief after he was fired.
The $2.1 million settlement agreement with Jim Garcia includes roughly $1.2 million awarded by a San Diego Superior Court jury in January for lost wages and emotional distress damages.
The additional $900,000 Garcia received in May addresses all other claims, including attorneys’ fees and costs.
Garcia’s salary at the time of termination was about $150,000.
In addition, Garcia had reportedly planned to work for at least another five years, which the damages compensated him for in part.
Throughout the lawsuit the city maintained that Garcia was “legitimately and appropriately” terminated from his position “in the best interest of public safety.”
City Attorney Glen Googins said the city’s decision to settle the January 2015 case was made to stop what he called “expensive and disruptive litigation.”
“The city continues to believe that the fire chief (Jim Geering) acted within his rights when he released then Deputy Fire Chief Garcia, an “at will” employee, as part of his reorganization of that department,” Googins said.
When Garcia filed the complaint in May 2015 he was the oldest of his peers at 58, and had 25 years of experience.
He argued that the city discriminated against him on the basis of his age and disability when he was terminated Jan. 14, 2015. His termination came just hours after talking to the city’s risk management representatives about a work-related neck and spinal injury he received while employed with the Fire Department in 1998.
Garcia later filed a lawsuit alleging that he was terminated due to his age and/or neck injury, and, that the city did not investigate allegations of discrimination.
In the complaint, he also states he was terminated without notification or cause and was told his position was being eliminated.
It was not.
Instead, several new positions were created, but those positions were given to younger employees, which became a substantial motivator in Garcia suing, the complaint read.