Another Nazi Salute Case

Another Nazi salute story is in the Fire Law news, this time in Florida.

Lieutenant Bill Figueredo of East Lake Fire Rescue has had his rank restored after having been demoted to firefighter. Lt. Figueredo was accused of rendering a Nazi salute to East Lake Fire Commission Chairman Mark Weinkrantz on December 19, 2012.

In a memo to Fire Chief Tom Jamison about the incident, Commissioner Weinkrantz complained:

In this particular case, the form of harassment involved Lt. Figuerdo and myself. On December, 20, 2012, I was in the hallway of station 57 when a staff meeting broke up. I was standing in the doorway of Chief Genarro's office, when Lt. Figuerdo passed. Upon recognizing me he paused, turned, and initiated a "Nazi salute" in my direction. I immediately responded by saying: Do you have any idea how offensive that is to a Jewish person? Lt. Figuerdo laughed it off and after a brief exchange, wherein I pointed out how the type of behavior was unacceptable, he went to the back of the station and I conducted my business in the offices. This exchange has gnawed at me since. To do nothing might demonstrate that any type of "hate" behavior will be tolerated in the workplace. The trigger to initiate this complaint came with knowledge that Lt. Figueredo routinely uses derogatory terms when referring to Jews and/or me.

However, there appears to be a lot more to the story. Lt. Figueredo not only denied Commissioner Weinkrantz’s allegations against him, but claimed he was offended by the allegations as well. Unbeknownst to Commissioner Weinkrantz, Lt. Figueredo’s  father, brothers and a sister are Jewish. Quoting the EastLakePatch:

The running joke throughout my career here in East Lake has been that although I'm not the token black guy, I am the token Mexican. Racial statements have been made from Mr. Finley and also Mr. Weinkrantz.

The commissioner has harassed me from the day I told him I would not support him personally as I did not believe in his platform. His statement to me was, "aren't you Hispanic or something?" and when I replied "yes", he stated, "Oh and you're a Republican? How can you be a minority and support a war-monger like George Bush?"

Lt. Figueredo also claimed that Weinkrantz threatened to fire him.

In passing, whether it be at Publix or Starbucks or the YMCA or the fire house, he would ask how my job search was going, that he was going to fire me, but I shouldn't worry because "he will put in a letter of recommendation with the lawn maintenance company and the local restaurants because people of my kind should work lawn maintenance, be washing dishes or clean people's houses". …

At times, when I brought this up in conversation with Chief Jamison, his response to me was, "Fig, pick your battles." …

Mr. Finley [another Commissioner] has called me the dirty Puerto Rican, the gay Puerto Rican, the dirty Mexican, gay Mexican and also dirty Cuban. …

Furthermore, while I was on duty at Station 56, Mr. Weinkrantz showed up and delivered a pair of hot pink dumbbells stating, "the reason he bought me hot pink ones was because I'm a faggot and real men don't play tennis".

At a meeting last night, the Commissioners voted 4-0 to restore Lt. Figueredo’s rank and compensate him for back pay while he was demoted. After the meeting he was quoted as saying:

"I'm very grateful that I've been restored to my original position. I'm very grateful that at least part of the truth has come out and I thank the commissioners for at least acknowledging that to this extent."

However, the matter is hardly over. Chief Jamison has requested an independent investigation of racism in the department, and Lt. Figueredo has filed an EEOC complaint with the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights.

More on the story.

Recall the story from last week where an Ohio firefighter, Paul Way of the Shawnee Township Fire Department, claims he was fired because he complained about other firefighters giving the Nazi salute to the fire chief.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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