Trial begins in Mpls. firefighter's lawsuit

Testimony in a workplace retaliation lawsuit involving the Minneapolis Fire Department began Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

In 2009, Jean Kidd was demoted from deputy chief to captain by then-chief Alex Jackson. She alleges that Jackson removed her from that position shortly after she wrote a critical performance evaluation of Jackson.

Kidd's name was not on the evaluation, but her attorney John Klassen, said in court Tuesday that Jackson recognized Kidd's writing style and punished her for her remarks. In his opening argument, Klassen presented a timeline of events that lead up to Kidd's demotion.

On June 18, 2009 Jackson signed off on an evaluation of Kidd that was mostly positive. The evaluation included comments like, "She [Kidd] gets along with co-workers."

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The next day, Jackson received survey results from anonymous employees who agreed to participate in a 360-degree evaluation -- which is a way for employees to rate their supervisors. Klassen said Kidd's remarks made Jackson angry.

On June 30, Jackson called Kidd into his office and demoted her on the spot. Jackson even had Kidd escorted out of City Hall, Klassen said.

However Assistant City Attorney Andrea Naef countered that Jackson was merely exercising his ability as chief to pick and choose his own leadership team. She said Kidd's energetic style clashed with Jackson's more laid-back management approach.

Kidd was already a deputy chief when Jackson was appointed to lead the fire department in 2008. And while each new chief routinely chooses their own leadership staff, Naef said Jackson was told by elected officials to keep the current staff for a while.

Jackson became chief as the fire department was reeling from a series of high-profile leadership changes and was faced with a shrinking budget and looming layoffs. Naef said Jackson was not upset by Kidd's criticism, but did find Kidd "difficult to work with."

Kidd is seeking financial compensation in excess of $75,000. The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of this week.