The Portland City Council will vote Feb. 14 on a financial settlement for Robert Bedgood, formerly a captain at Portland Fire & Rescue.
Bedgood sued the city last year in Multnomah County Circuit Court after the fire bureau terminated him over a disputed COVID-19 claim.
In his lawsuit, Bedgood, who worked for the bureau for more than 25 years, lays out a series of allegations against various superior officers, who he claims discriminated against him because of his Japanese heritage. He says he repeatedly complained to bureau officials about the mistreatment, but rather than addressing those complaints, he alleges, they labeled him a “problem employee.”
In 2021, the lawsuit says, Bedgood filed an “injury report” after testing positive for COVID-19. Bedgood alleges that bureau officials used that report as a pretext “to wrongfully discharge [Bedgood] from employment, by stating that [Bedgood] had contracted COVID-19 from his wife and lied about it.”
The lawsuit provides some context for how the fire bureau dealt with COVID-19 claims, alleging that six firefighters other than Bedgood lied about how they caught COVID-19, but none of them was ever investigated. Meanwhile, Bedgood alleges, he was the only firefighter whose claim was investigated and the city’s Fire & Police Disability & Retirement Bureau approved his claim.
“The fire bureau decided to terminate [Bedgood] before the investigation was performed and never contemplated any action other than termination of Plaintiff’s employment,” the lawsuit says. “The city used years of false complaints and discrimination against [Bedgood] as a factor supporting Plaintiff’s employment termination.”
The Portland Fire Fighters Association filed a grievance following Bedgood’s termination in April 2023, and the lawsuit followed in June. Rather than continuing to litigate both, the city decided to settle with Bedgood, according to the Feb. 14 council agenda.
The terms of that settlement call for a payment of $220,450; a separate payment of $5,000 into a retirement account; and reinstatement at full captain’s salary (about $100,000 a year) from Jan. 30 to a retirement date of June 10, 2024. Bedgood will not come back to work, however. Instead, he will be on paid administrative leave until his retirement date.
In the settlement, as is standard, the city specified that its agreement to settle did not represent any admission of liability.
The fire bureau declined to comment on the settlement.