Another Race Discrimination Suit for FDNY

Five FDNY electricians have filed a race discrimination lawsuit against three coworkers and the FDNY. The 36 page complaint alleges that supervisors and coworkers subjected the employees to ridicule, scorn, threats, and retaliation, and that they were denied overtime and promotional opportunities.

The case made headlines over a year ago when the plaintiffs, Gregory Seabrook, Ismael Ortiz, Edward Pitre, Joe Adams, and Dudley Placide, filed their administrative complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights. At that time Seabrook alleged that a noose was left near his locker, and they all claimed that they were being harassed because of their race. Seabrook, Adams and Placide are black, while Ortiz and Pitre are Hispanic.

The five allege that two supervisors, Robert Zerillo and John Forrentino, and a co-worker, Richard Cassidy, were among those responsible for the harassment. All three were named personally in the suit as defendants, as was the FDNY. The suit was filed on December 20, 2011, less than 2 weeks after they received their right to sue letter from the EEOC.

The complaint sets forth a number of detailed allegations, including:

  • Supervisors not posting information about promotional opportunities
  • Over $200,000 in overtime being worked by a white supervisor and his son-in law, that should have been distributed among all employees
  • Collective bargaining agreement violations
  • Excessive work demands, threats, ridicule, and verbal abuse

Here is a copy of the complaint: Seabrook v FDNY

The suit joins several other race related suits pending against the FDNY, including:

  • A major suit by the EEOC and the Vulcan Society alleging race discrimination in hiring that has prompted major changes in the hiring process for FDNY;
  • Suit by the wife of recruit Jamiel Sears who died during training that alleges discrimination;
  • Suit by EMS Lt. Valarie Brancato alleging discrimination.

Incidentally, the Seabrook complaint cites to the EEOC/Vulcan society suit, and Judge Garaufis’s finding  that the FDNY was guilty of an “pattern, practice, and policy of intentional discrimination”.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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