West Virginia Firefighter Alleges Ethnicity Discrimination

A West Virginia fire department is being sued by a former member who claims he was discriminated against on account of his ethnicity and retaliated against because he spoke out about concerns.

Leonel Caso resigned from the Star City Volunteer Fire Department in January, 2015. He alleges that while he was a member, he was referred to by demeaning nicknames including “papi,” “criminal,” “terrorist,” “Mexican” and “Cuban” by his colleagues. Caso claims these names were discriminatory because he is of Hispanic descent, and that he did not report the harassment to management because management participated in the name calling.

Caso also claims that he raised concerns about “other issues, including but not limited to staffing and personnel issues, failure to follow proper policies and/or procedures, and potentially unlawful pay practices,” that led to him being given an ultimatum to resign or be fired in January 2015.

The suit was filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court. I could not locate the complaint online. Here is 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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