More Racial Allegations in New Haven

New Haven is back in the Fire Law news with word that firefighter Michael Briscoe has filed a race discrimination complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against IAFF Local 825.

You may recall, in 2009 Briscoe filed suit following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, claiming he was the victim of race discrimination because the 2003 test that the Supreme Court upheld had a disparate impact on African Americans. The suit was dismissed by the district court, reversed by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and dismissed again by the district court.

With another trip to the 2nd Circuit likely, the city decided to settle with Briscoe by paying him $285,000 and giving him a promotion to the Director of the Public Safety Communications 911 center. That settlement announced last spring prompted Local 825 to file suit against the city to block the promotion as violating the city charter and the collective bargaining rights of union members.

Briscoe’s complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities claims the union’s lawsuit was retaliation aimed at him for filing his lawsuit. According to Briscoe’s attorney, David Rosen, “It’s kind of bizarre for the union to keep one of its members from getting a good assignment.” Briscoe remains a member of Local 825’s bargaining unit, and is serving in the 911 position on an acting basis.

Local 825 President James Kottage counters that the position should be competitively awarded based on merit.

More on the confusing… and seemingly never ending battle in New Haven.

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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