Fresno Fire Facing Discrimination Suit

The Fresno Fire Department is facing a race discrimination suit from a firefighter who is also the leading vote-getter in the election for city council in Tulare.

Carlton Jones claims he was wrongly suspended in 2009 when he was arrested for felony assault, and prevented from returning work for six months. He further alleges the department purposefully had his EMT license suspended, and that as a result even though he was found not-guilty of the charges, he had to defend himself before the EMS licensing board (Central California Emergency Medical Services Agency for Fresno).

Jones, who is African American, claims that white firefighters who were similarly situated were not disciplined the same way. He originally filed suit in Frenso County Superior Court in September, but the city removed the case to Federal court last week because the complaint alleges violations of Jones’s civil rights.

The complaint is an interesting read. Without getting into the merits of the case, I get a kick out of how many California attorneys tend to embellish and make what amounts to irrelevant arguments in their pleadings – something my father would never have allowed me to do as a young attorney. Consider these:

  • Plaintiff was shocked and appalled at the actions being taken against him, as Defendants had never even attempted to talk with him about the… charges, prior to taking actions against him
  • Plaintiff thought it would be only right that he be reimbursed for his lost accrued leave, etc., that he consumed in order to survive during the pendency of the dispute.
  • Amazingly, Defendants had the complete lack of fairness or ethics to grant Plaintiff’s request and refused to compensate him for that part of his loss.
  • Plaintiff was horrified and depressed by the way he was being trampled and dismissed by Defendants, and proceeded to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission…

And then there is my favorite comment: “Through years of hard-work, proven skills, and a commitment to excellence, Plaintiff rose through the ranks at the Fresno Fire Department, ultimately reaching the title/position of Engineer.” Keep in mind Jones was hired in 2002, and suspended in 2009. Gotta love how lawyers can embellish…


Here is the original complaint.State Court Complaint

Here is the removal notice. Removal

More on the story.

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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