Fired Texas Recruit Files Race Discrimination Suit

An Austin firefighter cadet who was fired in 2016 for poor performance has filed suit claiming he was the victim of race discrimination.

Damon Easter filed suit last Friday in US District Court accusing the department and academy instructors of being on a “continuous crusade” against him,  purposefully finding “new methods and techniques to discriminate and retaliate against” African Americans. According to the complaint:

  • Prior to Easter’s employment with Defendant, Defendant entered into a Consent Decree with the United States of America on November 7, 2014.
  • In relevant part, the Decree addressed Defendant’s policies and procedures that had a disparate impact on minority prospective entry-level firefighters.
  • Specifically, Defendant engaged in unlawful employment practices by utilizing selection procedures that had the effect of depriving or tending to deprive African Americans and Hispanics of employment opportunities because of their race and/or national origin in violation of Title VII.
  • Easter was a previous Claimant under the Decree who was allowed to enter into the six-month cadet training academy as a priority appointee.
  • In October 2016, Easter left his position as a fire fighter in Cedar Park, Texas, to join the Cadet Class 120 at the Austin Fire Department.
  • At the onset of Cadet Class 120, Easter began to notice that he was not receiving the same treatment in comparison to his non-African American cadets in the Academy.
  • Specifically, Easter was receiving negative performance appraisals and test scores whereas his non-African American counterparts were not for similar performance.
  • After noticing the disparate treatment in his performance assessments, Easter immediately complained.
  • First, Easter complained to Team Leader Xochito Hernandez.
  • Following Easter’s protest of the perceived disparate treatment, Hernandez communicated to him that, but for the Decree, Easter would not have been selected for the Academy.
  • Hernandez further labeled Easter as a “trouble maker” and informed him that attempting to escalate his complaints of discrimination would be futile.
  • Following Easter’s complaints to Hernandez, Easter continued to master the Academy’s objective assessments and benchmarks.
  • Disregarding Easter’s stellar performance, Hernandez and her fellow management officials embarked on a continuous crusade against Easter by subjecting him to unequal terms of employment including, but not limited to, issuing unwarranted negative performance appraisals to Easter.
  • Ultimately, Easter was terminated on November 22, 2016. Defendant cited the reason for Easter’s termination was solely the result of a “pattern of poor performance.”
  • This vague, overly broad reasoning provided by Defendant is simply pretext to mask its true discriminatory and retaliatory motivation in terminating Easter’s employment.

The suit alleges race discrimination and retaliation. Here is a copy of the complaint: Easter v Austin

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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