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Judge Rules County Not Liable for Discrimination But Union Is

A Federal court judge in Florida has overturned a jury verdict against Pasco County in a discrimination suit filed by two firefighters. The two firefighters, Anthony Booth and Jerry Brown, claimed their captain discriminated against them on the basis of their race and religion. Booth is a firefighter/EMT, who is Hispanic,  and Brown is a driver/engineer, whose wife’s family is Jewish.

They later sued the county and IAFF Local 4420 claiming they were retaliated against for filing the initial complaint.  On January 31, 2012, a Federal court jury agreed, awarding the pair $189,000.

This week, Judge James Moody concluded that the county was justified in sending the firefighters for a psychological evaluation prior to allowing them to return to duty, a point that the jury felt was discriminatory.

Judge Moody agreed with the jury as to the union’s liability for posting a notice in the stations that referred to Booth and Brown by name, and indicated the possibility that union dues would go up as a result of the ‘frivolous” lawsuit. The judge rejected the union’s argument that the notice was protected “free speech”. He referred to the notice as “an implicit call for reprisal, and thus a retaliatory act.”

The union has been ordered to pay each firefighter $83,000, and the case has been continued on the issue of legal fees.

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