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.

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