Oakland Captain Sues for Discrimination

A veteran captain with the Oakland Fire Department who claims he was passed over numerous times for promotion to battalion chief, has filed suit in federal court alleging discrimination and retaliation based upon his Native American and Hispanic descent.

Captain Joseph Torres claims that despite finishing high on promotional tests and having outstanding credentials, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed purposefully bypassed him in favor of caucasian and black candidates.

According to the complaint:

  • After the initial promotions [when he was bypassed], plaintiff Torres requested a meeting with defendant Deloach Reed to understand why she failed to promote him to Battalion Chief for one (1) of the first two (2) available positions. Defendant Deloach Reed admitted that Captain Torres was “highly qualified for the position” and did “very well” in his interviews, but stated that she did not promote Captain Torres because an undisclosed individual had told her that he did not support her and was speaking negatively about her.
  • Plaintiff Torres advised defendant Deloach Reed that any such hearsay was false and asked for the identity of the person(s) who had made the alleged statements which were false. But defendant Deloach Reed refused to identify the “source” of the alleged statements/allegations falsely attributed to Captain Torres.

The complaint lists numerous other instances where Chief Deloach Reed had the opportunity to promote Captain Torres to Battalion Chief, and failed to do so. Among the nine counts contained in the 17 page complaint are:

  1. Racial And National Origin Discrimination Against Defendants City of Oakland and Oakland Fire Department pursuant to California Government Code Section et seq. 12940 et seq
  2. Retaliation Against Defendants City of Oakland and Oakland Fire Department pursuant to California Government Code Section et seq. 12940 et seq.
  3. Failure To Prevent Discrimination Against Defendants City of Oakland and Oakland Fire Department pursuant to California Government Code Section et seq. 12940 et seq.
  4. Violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Racial Discrimination
  5. Violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 Retaliation
  6. Violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 Racial Discrimination
  7. Violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 Retaliation
  8. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
  9. Request for Punitive Damages under California Civil Code Section 3294.

Here is a copy of the complaint, which was filed on November 5, 2016: Torres v Oakland

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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