Texas Chief Loses Suit Against Union

A Texas appeals court has rejected the appeal of a former fire chief who sued the firefighters’ union for engaging in a “sinister and ill conceived” campaign to cause his termination.

Michael Pruitt was the first African-American Fire Chief in Longview, Texas.  Following his termination in 2009, he sued the Longview Professional Firefighters Association IAFF Local 4331, its officers and directors alleging they aided and abetted unlawful race discrimination against him. The suit also alleged common law intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, and tortious interference with employment relations.

The trial court dismissed Chief Pruitt’s claims finding that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by not filing a race discrimination complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission. That administrative complaint step is a common requirement in most employment discrimination cases brought under state and Federal law. The court ruled that by not filing he was deemed to have abandoned his race discrimination allegations. The without the race discrimination element, the court concluded that Chief Pruitt’s common law claims failed because they arose out of the same set of facts.

On appeal, Sixth District Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed the trial court. The court concluded that even the common law claims were precluded by Chief Pruitt’s failure to file with the Texas Workforce Commission because they arose out of the same factual allegation of race discrimination.

Here is a copy of the decision.  Pruitt v IAFF

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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