The 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida was the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001. With a final death toll of forty-nine people, and fifty-three others wounded, the attack sent shockwaves throughout the city, state, and nation. People sent condolences to the families of those affected, prayers for those taken, and praise to first responders and health care professionals for their hard work and service. What many fail to consider, however, is the lasting effect such a horrific and traumatic event can have on the first responders whose job it is to pick up the pieces after attackers rip the world apart.
This Note begins by discussing the struggle of Gerry Realin, one of the police officers tasked with removing the bodies of the slain after the shooting. Officer Realin was deeply affected by the experience, and is currently in a fight with the state of Florida to have his PTSD covered by workers’ compensation. Under current Florida law, first responders who experience psychological trauma on the job are not entitled to paid days off or to have their medical bills reimbursed by their employer, absent an accompanying physical injury. This Note argues that the current Florida workers’ compensation statutory scheme results in unfairness to first responders, a class of people who put their lives on the line and frequently risk exposure to dangerous and highly stressful events. In addition, this Note addresses the constitutional arguments against such laws and proposes legislative changes necessary to remedy this injustice. Unfortunately, horrific events such as the Pulse shooting are seemingly becoming more frequent, and legislators need to reevaluate the effect these laws have on the men and women tasked with keeping our society safe.