Florida Discrimination Suit Includes the Union

Two Pasco County, FL firefighters have filed a race, ethnicity and religious discrimination suit against the county and the firefighter’s union. The lawsuit accuses a Pasco Fire Rescue Captain of using racial slurs against two employees, Anthony Booth and Jerry Brown. Booth is a firefighter/EMT, who is Hispanic and of Venezuelan-Spanish descent, and the Brown is a driver/engineer, whose wife's family is Jewish.

 

The suit was originally filed in November in state court, and removed to Federal Court on December 29, 2009. It alleges that Captain Mark Bodden repeatedly harassed Booth, who worked for him at Station 14, using racially and ethnically derogatory terms as well as shouting “vulgar words” and profanity at him, sometimes even in public. The suit also claims that Brown was often subjected to derogatory terms about his race, and subjected to anti-semetic language. In addition, Brown claims he was wrongfully denied leave to attend to family matters when his sister died.

 

The suit alleges that Bodden has been disciplined previously in the form of a written reprimand, anger management training, and cultural awareness classes, among other measures. County personnel director Barbara DeSimone acknowledged that  Bodden was disciplined by the county for his conduct toward Booth and Brown, but claimed it was not on account of harassment, and said the county did not violate anyones’s civil rights.

 

Booth and Brown included the union in the lawsuit because they allege that when they took their complaints to the union, they were turned away. Federal employment law permits employees to sue their union when the union discriminates against them, including when the union fails to intervene on their behalf.

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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