Retired KCMO Firefighter Claims Race Discrimination Forced Him Off The Job

A Kansas City, Missouri firefighter who retired in 2014 has filed a race discrimination suit claiming that after he was repeatedly passed over for promotion to captain he had no choice but to retire.

Travis Yeargans filed suit yesterday in US District Court for the Western District of Missouri alleging that he was “constructively discharged”. The suit contends that KCFD’s promotional process was biased in favor of white candidates. Yeargans, a 23 year veteran, is African American.

According to the complaint:

  • There are significantly fewer African-American Captains, than Caucasian Captains.
  • African American Captains are just 7.8% of the total Captain population even though African Americans comprise 13.5% of the KCFD.
  • Some Caucasian candidates were unfairly over-scored through the Captain’s Promotional Process that began in 2012.
  • Plaintiff was significantly underscored on the Situational Exercise and the Oral Tactical Exercise. Plaintiff’s race and racial bias played a part in Defendant’s failure to promote him and in the underscoring of the oral components of the Captain’s Promotional Process, which began in 2012 and continued through 2014.
  • Through past Captain’s Promotional Processes, Plaintiff and other African American candidates were not promoted and died at the top or near the top of promotion lists due to their race and Defendant’s manipulation of the number of candidates promoted through each Captain’s Promotional process.
  • The Defendant failed to take into consideration Plaintiff’s actual on-the-job performance and failed to consider his ability to make decision and fulfill the duties of a Captain.
  • As a result of Plaintiff not being promoted through the Captain’s Promotional Process that began in 2012 and his experiences through previous Captain’s Promotional Processes, Plaintiff decided he was never going to be promoted to Captain.
  • After 23 years on the job and no promotion to Captain, Plaintiff felt he must resign in March 2014 and was therefore constructively discharged.
  • Plaintiff has lost wages, pension payments and benefits and will continue to lose wages, pension payments and benefits because Defendant failed to promote him to Captain.

The single count complaint accuses the city of violating his 14th Amendment due process and equal protection rights.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Yeargans v KCMO Fire

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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