Updated:DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - WFTV's story on a Daytona Beach firefighter, who was paid a half-million dollars just so she would not come back to work, is getting more attention. WFTV talked to a labor attorney Friday, someone who specializes in getting deals like this for workers, and even he says this deal is unique.
The city gave Kristine Gray a raise and a promotion as part of the deal. She's the deputy chief, even though an investigation found she was walking up and down a street, not commanding crews, when a fire burned a building to the ground two years ago.
A couple attorneys told WFTV the agreement the city worked out to keep her on the payroll is unusual. Gray, who charged that her demotion was because she was a woman, still has five days to back out of the half-million dollar payday from Daytona Beach, but labor law attorney Jason Harr said she probably couldn't ask for a better deal.
"I have not seen it very often in my practice," he told WFTV.
Gray's agreement to collect $99,000 a year, but not show up for work, is not the norm, Harr said. Usually, even in private settlements, employees resign on the spot to prevent more problems.
"From bringing future claims, for other things such as unpaid wages, unpaid overtime," Harr explained.
WFTV went through more than 500 pages of Gray's personnel and investigation files. It noted she had at least four problems in 2008, including trying to manipulate her overtime pay. And her own defense of her actions never mentioned she thought her gender was the reason she was singled out.
Still, Harr says paying Gray and increasing her pension to $70,000 a year was probably a good financial deal for the city because it avoided a trial.
"The reason why is both sides get to take the decision out of somebody else's hands, like a judge or a jury, and control the outcome themselves," Harr said.
A jury could have given Gray millions and the city said it would have had to hire a labor attorney, adding more costs to the case.
Assuring Gray gets her pension, Harr said, probably takes the place of cash that's often included in private deals to take care of employee's futures or for their children.
Men make up the majority of firefighters in Daytona Beach. In all, the city has a total of 122 firefighters. Of those, only six are women.
Previous Stories: January 7, 2011: Firefighter To Get Half-Million Dollars To Not Work