FDNY HR Manager Sues Claiming Discrimination and Retaliation

A civilian manager in FDNY’s human resources division has filed suit claiming he was wrongfully passed over for promotion to Assistant Commissioner for Human Resources, and then retaliated against when he filed a complaint with the EEOC. David Ogula filed suit last week in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York naming the City of New York, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs Terryl L. Brown, Deputy Commissioner for Budget and Finance Stephen Rush.

According to the complaint, Ogula is an African American who was born in Nigeria. He has a masters in public administration and a doctorate in Management and Organizational Leadership, yet he was passed over last year in favor of a female.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • Female applicants Ms. Hamblin and Ms. Giraud were treated more favorably on the basis of their sex/gender.
  • The department in which Plaintiff works and has faced discrimination, Human Resources, is predominantly managed by female employees at FDNY.
  • Plaintiff was not considered for interview, nor informed why he was not considered.
  • By contrast, Ms. Brown selected Ms. Ayana Brooks (a female applicant) as Assistant Commissioner, HR even though she did not have a preferred skill.
  • Ms. Giraud was appointed as Assistant Commissioner, Candidate Investigation Division (CID) even though she did not have a preferred skill.
  • Ms. Brooks and Ms. Giraud were selected for positions to which they applied, even though they did not have a preferred skill, but Ms. Brown claimed that the Plaintiff was not qualified for the Associate Commissioner position because the Plaintiff did not have a preferred skill: being an attorney and having legal experience.
  • The Plaintiff was denied and disparately treated and/or impacted based on unlawful considerations, including but not limited to his race, sex, gender, age, and country of origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the New York State Human Rights Law (hereinafter “NYS HRL”), the New York City Human Rights Law (hereinafter “NYC HRL”), Administrative Code of the City of New York §§8-101, et seq.
  • Ms. Brown gave Ms. Hamblin and Ms. Giraud preferential treatment, including promotions, despite their employment and performance histories, and lack of HR qualifications.

Ogula filed a complaint with the EEOC in September, 2019. He claims prior to that time he had never been disciplined. Afterwards he faced retaliation as explained as follows:

  • Since the Plaintiff’s EEOC charge, he has suffered loss of functional title and staff; loss of responsibility commensurate with his knowledge, qualifications and skills, and has been generally ignored.
  • He is assigned tasks that do not provide any of the critical characteristics of work: meaningfulness, responsibility and knowledge of outcome.
  • Noteworthy is the low level of “Task Significance.”
  • The Plaintiff is under the impression that he is being constructively frustrated and pushed out of the agency.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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