Former Calif. fire chief wins $1M discrimination lawsuit
Deputy Fire Chief James Garcia said the city fired him in 2015 after he underwent neck surgery
By FireRescue1 Staff
CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A former deputy fire chief was awarded $1 million after winning a discrimination lawsuit against the city of Chula Vista this week.
Former Chula Vista Deputy Fire Chief James Garcia sued the city for discrimination after he was fired when the city heard about a surgery he had in 2015. Chief Garcia said his medical problems were likely caused by a 1998 workplace injury.
After joining the fire department, Chief Garcia worked his way up through the ranks and was awarded the Medal of Valor twice. He said the termination caught him off-guard.
“He was a hero; in other words, a great employee, and they just dumped him,” Chief Garcia’s attorney, Bradley Gage, told ABC10. “We argued after they learned that he needed neck surgery and that’s wrong. That’s discriminatory.”
Although winning the lawsuit has helped financially, Chief Garcia said he is still emotionally impacted by the firing.
“It’s extremely painful — it’s tearful … when I hear the fire truck go by, the lights and sirens … when I see it on the news, it hurts,” Chief Garcia said. “That was me; that’s who I was and it got taken away from me and it hurts a lot."