Connecticut Firefighter Claims Religious Discrimination

A Hamden, Connecticut firefighter has filed suit claiming the city discriminated against him on account of his religion because he refused to do things like march in a Memorial day parade and raise the American flag.

Ray Pouncey, an 18 year veteran of the Hamden Fire Department, claims he has been forced to endure a hostile work environment for years. Pouncey is a Jehovah Witness.

The suit names the City of Hamden as well as Fire Chief David Berardesca, Battalion Chief Samuel DeBurra, and Lieutenant Kevin St. John. Among the allegations:

  • Since the Plaintiff refusal to march in the Memorial Day Parade on May 29, 2000, for Religious reasons the Plaintiff have suffered a continuous pattern of harassment by his co-workers, and supervisors.
  • The Plaintiff, have repeatedly complained against the use of foul language and profanity based on his religious belief in the work place by his co-workers/firefighters, to the Fire Chief David Berardesca, and nothing was done about it.
  • The Defendants continued to levy false accusation against the Plaintiff because of his religious beliefs and practices.
  • On March 14, 2014, the Defendant Lt. Kevin St. John, falsely accused the Plaintiff of “slamming a door in his face” while on an emergency medical call at 38 Eaton Woods Condominiums, located in Hamden, Connecticut.
  • On one occasion the Plaintiff, was told by Battalion Chief Samuel DeBurra, that the Plaintiff is “a marked man because of his religion”.

The 53-page, 15 count complaint alleges religious discrimination, harassment, retaliation, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and negligent infliction of severe emotional distress.

Pouncey was quoted by the New Haven Register as saying:

  • “They tried to have me raise the flag during a flag ceremony, which is the way to raise it properly”
  • “While I respect the flag, I don’t worship idols or anything man-made. While I respect the country — my father and uncle and brother-in-law were in the military — my understanding of scriptures prohibits me (from taking part in the flag-raising ceremony).

Here is a copy of the complaint: Pouncey v Hamden

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.
x

Check Also

LA County Captain Settles With Shooter’s Estate

A Los Angeles County fire captain who was shot by a disgruntled firefighter in 2021, has reached a settlement with the shooter’s estate. Captain Arnoldo V. Sandoval suffered serious injuries including paralysis in the shooting that occurred at Station 81 on June 1, 2021 following shift change.

North Carolina Captain Terminated for Social Media Post Claims Free Speech Violation

A North Carolina fire captain who was terminated in 2023 for sharing social media posts the city considered to be offensive, has filed suit alleging a violation of his right to free speech. Captain Dustin Jones filed suit against the City of Greensboro in Guilford County Superior Court.