RUTHERFORD COUNTY, TN (WSMV) - On July 12, Hunter Taylor went to work at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, even though he’d had a fever that day.
On July 13, he was fired.
What happened in between is proof, he claims, of a staffing shortage that is forcing deputies to work even when they have fevers.
“They made it very apparent that they didn’t care that I was running a fever,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he tried to call in sick on July 12 after taking Tylenol that lowered his temperature.
While as work, he said his fever rose to 102 and ultimately told his lieutenant.
“He said, ‘What’s this that I’m hearing that if your test comes back positive you’re contacting the news?’ And I said sir, I have no comment, and he said, tough it out,” Taylor said.
Taylor said he then worked the remainder of the shift.
In a statement to News4 Investigates, a spokeswoman for the Rutherford County Sheriff wrote in part, “Employees reported Taylor attempted to falsify his temperature by drinking hot soup during the Sunday shift. Taylor informed the shift supervisor he went to medical, tested himself and reported his temperature was 100.1. Within a few minutes, a nurse used a forehead thermometer to take Taylor’s temperature that measured 98.4.”
Taylor said he doubted the soup he and two other deputies drank would have caused his temperature to spike that high.
He said the nurse who took his last temperature admitted that it wasn’t as accurate as the oral thermometer he had taken to receive the 102 temperature.
When Taylor was called into work Monday, he said he was told he’d been terminated, and no reason was given.
Taylor said since the department is so short staffed, they are constantly being asked to work overtime and are working shorter eight hour shifts as opposed to ten.
“Do you feel that they’re so short staffed that they have no other choice?” asked News4 Investigates.
“Now that we’re on (eight hour shifts), we’re even more short staffed then we were on (ten hour shifts),” Taylor said.
News4 Investigates confirmed that currently, five deputies are out sick with COVID-19, and the department is down ten deputy positions.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said deputies are working overtime to cover the shifts.
Taylor said his symptoms are now worse as he awaits the results of his COVID-19 test.