California firefighter settles whistleblower lawsuit against US Forest Service

Category: COVID-19 Litigation

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Former Klamath National Forest seasonal firefighter Pedro Rios ended up on the U.S. Forest Service’s “do not rehire” list after a 2020 post on social media about what he perceived as the agency’s lax COVID-19 rules during the pandemic, which could have endangered the health of his young son.

Rios sued the agency, alleging that refusing to rehire him for the 2021 fire season was the result of “retaliation for whistleblowing activity.”

Earlier this month, the Forest Service reached a settlement to award Rios $115,000 in back pay, after an administrative judge for the government’s Merit Systems Protection Board found that Rios had “exhausted his administrative remedies and made non-frivolous allegations entitling him to a hearing.”

Administrative Judge Michael Shachat also ordered the agency to place the appellant in the same job position he would have held if he’d been rehired. The judge also ruled that the agency must remove Rios from any “do not rehire” lists.

The judge’s decision became final on April 1.

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TriMark Legal Funding has provided non-recourse lawsuit funding nationwide on hundreds of different types of lawsuits since 2003. COVID-related lawsuits are an emerging trend that TriMark is monitoring carefully for funding opportunities.

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