Thanks to a strongly argued case, Jefferson County, KY Local 3972 President Natalie Taylor is back on the job after being unfairly charged of conduct unbecoming an officer. The Middletown Fire Protection District Board cleared her of all charges and awarded her back pay.
“The board heard the facts of this case and did the right thing,” says Kentucky Professional Fire Fighters (KPFF) President Joe Baer. “I am proud of Taylor for demanding fair treatment and the consistent support given to her by KPFF members.”
“I am so thankful that I had the support of my union throughout this process,” says Local 3972 President Taylor. “I am very pleased with this just ruling.”
The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred after an officer training session on November 24, 2014. The instructors asked for input from participants. Taylor offered her opinion, which included safety concerns about fire department procedures. Middletown Fire Protection District Fire Chief Jeffrey Riddle was present at the meeting, but did not address her regarding her comments.
Still, on December 3, 2014, Taylor was charged with conduct unbecoming an officer. Chief Riddle gave her three choices: self-demote from captain to fire fighter, resign or have the matter decided in a hearing before the Middletown Fire Protection District Board. Meanwhile, she was immediately suspended from her duties.
“I knew I was well within my rights to speak my mind and felt this was an attempt to impose unfair disciplinary measures on me,” says Taylor. “I wanted to seek legal counsel, so I went to my executive board to request their support.”
The Local 3972 Executive Board voted unanimously to move forward with legal action, and Taylor opted for the hearing before the fire board. The case was heard over the course of several weeks.
“There were several attempts to get me to settle, but I did not feel that any of the offers were right,” says Taylor. “Thankfully, I had my fellow union members standing behind me.”
In solidarity, several members of the KPFF, including several members of Local 3972 and surrounding locals, were present at all four hearings.
Finally, the case went to deliberation on March 18, 2015. The board returned a ruling that the charges were unsubstantiated and moved to dismiss the charges. Taylor was awarded back pay and was cleared to work her next shift.