A jury will soon begin deliberating the case of a Los Angeles County fire captain who maintains he was subjected to retaliation after he criticized a supervisor for allegedly violating the county’s policy of equity in giving preferential treatment to a female recruit at the department’s 148th training academy.
Captain Michael Cash maintains in his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit that management wrongfully removed him from his position of training captain as punishment for speaking out against the allegedly discriminatory actions of Battalion Chief Patrick Errett.
“Not showing remorse about his gender-based preferences, Chief Errett doubled-down on his discrimination, saying that he did not care if the department had to pay out legal settlement money because he was violating the law,” Cash’s attorney, Steven Haney, states in his court papers.
Cash was hired as a firefighter in 1999 and became a captain in 2013. Errett is the director of training in charge of the academy. The suit alleges that female recruit Alexis Miller was hurt during the 147th academy and failed a ladder test in the 148th academy, telling those around her, “I just didn’t get it done,” according to Haney’s court papers.
However, Errett gave Miller a “charity pass” that he justified by saying the department was considering changing the 24-foot, one-person ladder evolution in the future, according to Haney’s court papers, which further state that the exercise reflects real-world skills that firefighters often face. None of the training captains agreed with Errett’s decision to pass Miller, according to Haney’s court papers.
Cash told Errett that his decision to pass Miller was unfair because male firefighters had failed the academy the same day and the department did not bend the rules for them, Haney states. Cash also told Errett that his decision undermined the previous accomplishments of female recruits in general, according to Haney’s court papers.
Cash had been selected as captain of the 151st training academy, a highly coveted position that provides prestige, benefits for future promotions, a higher likelihood of working overtime, and permits more evenings and weekends off, according to Haney’s court papers. However, Cash was told by another captain in February 2018 that he no longer had the job, Haney’s court papers state.
To replace Cash, the department selected an unqualified person who did not even meet minimum eligibility requirements and Errett refused to tell Cash why he was removed, according to Haney’s court papers.
To protect Errett, the department said Cash was removed because he had written articles for a firefighters nonprofit magazine, Straight Streams, which the department deemed “sarcastic” and therefore disqualified him from the position, Haney states in his court papers.
When Chief Deputy David Richardson was asked in a deposition what he found objectionable about Cash’s articles, Richardson said it was his use of the words fireman, instead of firefighter, and brotherhood, which he believed expressed too much masculinity, according to Haney’s court papers.
In their court papers, defense attorneys state that the county had a “legitimate, non-retaliatory reason” for removing Cash from the training captains eligibility list “due to his sarcastic Straight Streams articles.”
By writing those articles, Cash showed he did not embody the leadership skills and judgment expected of a training captain, according to the county attorneys, who further state in their court papers that Cash admitted at his deposition that he does not know who made the decision to remove him from the training captain eligibility list or why the decision was made.
Testimony in the trial began May 17 with Cash as the opening witness.