Lawsuit: NM CO fired in retaliation for union work

After initially being suspended during a criminal investigation, the officer alleges he was terminated for remaining an active union steward

Katy Barnitz
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A fired corrections officer has filed a lawsuit against the county alleging he was terminated in retaliation for his union work.

Steven Fabrizio, a sergeant at the Metropolitan Detention Center, says he was placed on administrative leave in June 2017 after he was arrested, court documents say, for punching his wife in the ear, leaving her unconscious. The domestic violence case was ultimately dismissed by prosecutors, who wrote that it was still being investigated. Fabrizio denied the allegations.

MDC Chief of Corrections Ralph Fernandez said he could not comment on Fabrizio’s separation from MDC because it is a personnel matter. An MDC spokeswoman provided a copy of the facility’s 15-page employee conduct policy, which, among other things, requires staff to “conduct themselves in such a manner which does not bring discredit upon themselves, their position or the department, whether on or off duty.”

Fabrizio says in his lawsuit that he was kept on administrative leave for months after the criminal case was dismissed.

He remained an active union steward, however. And in November 2017, he was representing a corrections officer during a conversation with the MDC chief and asked why he was still on leave. In March 2018, he was terminated.

“Plaintiff is aware of other corrections officers that were not terminated even though they had been accused of crimes and also corrections officers who had even been convicted of crimes,” the lawsuit alleges.

Fabrizio says he learned in 2017 that “multiple union officers and stewards were being targeted with discipline, termination or forced resignations.” He says that he told administrators that MDC was not following the collective bargaining agreement.

“Defendant thereafter retaliated against plaintiff by terminating plaintiff’s employment,” the suit states.

The lawsuit filed in state District Court on Feb. 11 accuses the county of violating the Whistleblower Protection Act, and asks that Fabrizio be reinstated as a corrections officer. Fabrizio’s attorney could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Fabrizio has another ongoing lawsuit against the county, which alleges he was passed over for a promotion to lieutenant while on administrative leave. That case is set for trial in April.

Court records show Fabrizio was arrested in 2015 in another domestic violence case, which was also dismissed.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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