OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Fire Department says a corporal with its Urban Search and Rescue Team has been terminated after refusing to test for COVID-19 following deployment to Louisiana.
Officials say Corporal Jerimiah Hoffstatter was terminated Wednesday from employment with the City of Oklahoma City based on gross insubordination.
Corporal Hoffstatter was recently deployed to Louisiana to assist with a hurricane response as part of the Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR).
During their time in Louisiana, USAR team members from other task forces who were deployed with Oklahoma Task Force 1 contracted COVID-19.
Three Oklahoma City Fire Department personnel tested positive for COVID-19 upon their return to the Sooner State.
“Corporal Hoffstatter refused to comply with this testing requirement upon return to our city,” said Benny Fulkerson with OKCFD. “After completing an administrative investigation, it was determined that Corporal Hoffstatter was grossly insubordinate when he refused to be tested for COVID-19.”
During a disciplinary meeting with fire administration, Hoffstatter was offered a last-chance agreement which included time off without pay.
Hoffstatter refused the agreement and refused to sign the documentation of the determined discipline.
Following refusal, Hoffstatter’s employment with the department was terminated.
Hoffstatter had 9.35 years of service with the department and was assigned to Fire Station 8.
Cameron Weems, Oklahoma City Firefighters Local 157 President, is helping Hoffstatter fight to get his job back. He explained that the firefighter has reservations about the chemicals used in COVID testing, and concerns with his family history, and that’s why he refused the test.
“It’s tough,” Weems said. “I want us to all be safe. I want us to all take care of each other, but I also believe there’s a point to where your personal beliefs come into play here.”
Weems said they are filing a grievance to the City of Oklahoma City, and if they don’t reverse the termination, they’ll request an arbitrator.
“I’m always hopeful, but I know this is going to be tough,” he said. “I’ll be honest. It will be tough, but we’re going to give it everything we can.”
KFOR asked OKC Fire to explain their COVID testing policy so we could better understand the termination. We were told the the chief said their department will make no further comment about this incident.