The Industrial Commission of Arizona sued the Avra Valley Fire District earlier this month regarding fallout from a chemical cleanup in March 2007.

Several AVFD employees filed complaints against the department on how the chemical spill was handled. The lawsuit alleges AVFD “engaged in adverse and retaliatory conduct” against the five employees.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” said acting fire chief Tom Nix. “The Industrial Commission filed it in court to avoid the statute of limitations.”

The time frame for settling complaints is one year after they were filed. This lawsuit extends that deadline.

In April 2007, William Howe, Levi Kring, Brian Lassen and Kelly Hamilton filed complaints with the Division of Occupational Health and Safety of Arizona about the incident, which led to a safety investigation and a $366,000 fine.

A fifth firefighter, Kevin Booth, filed a discrimination complaint in May 2007, arguing that district officials took action against him for raising safety concerns. Booth was fired four days after filing the complaint.

Between October and November, Howe, Kring and Lassen were laid off by AVFD. Hamilton quit in September.

The Industrial Commission requests that the court finds AVFD in violation of a state statute regarding discriminations for filing complaints, remove mention of adverse action in the personnel files of the firefighters named in the suit, award any compulsory damages, such as lost wages and benefits, and that the fire district post a notice on employee rights regarding raising safety concerns.

The plaintiffs also request that Kring be rehired.

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