A Texas firefighter has his job back thanks to a decision by an arbitrator. Firefighter Robert Vargas of the McAllen Fire Department was terminated in January after he lied to investigators about a minor Halloween mishap with an engine company. The engine struck a mailbox while backing up.
Following the discovery of minor damage to the engine, Vargas’s officer, Lt. Marcos Reyes, ordered the crew not to discuss the accident and that he would take care of it.
During an investigative interview, Vargas denied any knowledge of the mishap and was “indefinitely suspended”, a euphemism in many jurisdictions for termination.
On appeal Vargas claimed he was following the orders of his officer, Lt. Reyes, not to discuss what occurred. He further claimed he was denied due process because he was never formally charged with lying and given an opportunity to defend himself.
The arbitrator reversed the termination and in a well reasoned decision, ruled that Vargas should receive a 10-day, unpaid suspension and return to work. Here is a copy of the decision, issued July 5, 2011.