Zach Flamberg's prognosis is not good. Since 2009, the 57-year-old has been locked in a bloody cage match with large b-cell lymphoma, and his time is running out. "My fate is sealed, the doctors have told me," he says. "With me now, it's a day-to-day thing."
But since losing his job as an IT tech at the Broward Sheriff's Office after a bizarre workplace incident in July 2012, Flamberg's been without insurance. He just paid out of pocket for procedures. He uses over-the-counter pills to battle pain that should probably be combated with prescriptions.
Not only was the firing wrong, Flamberg says, it's literally going to kill him soon.
On July 24, 2012, Flamberg was having a discussion with a coworker at BSO when he reached in his pocket to pull out a cord, and also, he says, accidentally pulled out his wallet and a strip of bullets. (He taught shooting as a side job.) The conversation continued. At one point, the men discussed a project Flamberg was working on and a supervisor who was being difficult.
"What I recalled is, I might have said, 'I might kill him if he doesn't make up his mind,' " he tells New Times. "Like you might say to your kid, 'I'm going to kill you if you don't do your homework.' We were having a very jovial conversation. We didn't think anything about it."
But a third coworker claimed to have overheard and reported the conversation to higher-ups. Because Flamberg had been touching bullets when he made the comment, the eavesdropper characterized Flamberg's words as a threat. An internal "workplace violence" investigation began. Flamberg was suspended and eventually fired in March 2013.
He's been trying to appeal the decision ever since. Last week, he filed a federal lawsuit alleging wrongful termination. He claims the person who made the complaint wasn't even close when the conversation happened and could not possibly have heard it correctly. While suing for damages, Flamberg is also scheduled for arbitration in January. "Do I want my job back? Yeah. It'll give me a reason to get up every morning."
"The Broward Sheriff's Office has zero tolerance for any threats of workplace violence," says BSO General Counsel Ron Gunzburger.