Former fire captain Carl E. Larson, who filed a lawsuit alleging fire officials retaliated against him by forcing him to retire for receiving a large workers’ compensation payout, is getting $270,000 in settlement money, according to municipal records.
Larson’s initial lawsuit was dismissed in the New Jersey Superior Court. He claimed retaliation and age discrimination. He filed an appeal and won a partial victory. Some of the counts were dismissed, but others were not.
Council members approved the settlement in a 6-0 vote on Tuesday night. The city’s chief attorney Domenick Stampone said the entire settlement amount is being covered by a municipal insurance policy with ACE/Chubb.
Larson had been employed by the city for 26 years when he was allegedly forced to retire in 2013. He reached the rank of fire captain in 2007. He claims fire officials forced him to retire after the council approved a $105,876 workers’ compensation payout for separate work-related injuries.
Former fire chief Michael Postorino allegedly told Larson that due to the compensation award and medical reports, the city’s “legal department felt [Larson] was a liability and therefore decided to terminate [him].” Larson claims the chief told him the “city council thought [he] was so disabled or worked with [his] doctors to defraud the city.”
Larson did not want to retire.
“Well, if you are telling me you are not disabled and you come back to work you are suspended without pay,” Postorino is alleged to have told Larson. The chief also allegedly told Larson that if he fought the city’s decision, he could go without seeing a paycheck for one or two years and spend $200 an hour on attorney fees.
Larson was told if he retired effective Apr. 1, 2013, the city would keep him on administrative leave. If retirement was delayed until May 1, he would need to use his terminal leave time and lose a $10,000 payout.
The former fire captain had “no choice,” but to retire, according to his lawsuit.
The city denied retaliating against Larson for filing workers’ compensation claims, according to court documents.
Appellate court judges saw things differently. Larson provided information that judges though showed “there was evidence” of a forced retirement.
Council members approved the settlement without any public comments.