LAFD Prevails in Appeal of $1.1 Million Race Discrimination Verdict

The Los Angeles City Fire Department has prevailed in its appeal of a $1.1 million jury verdict granted in 2013 to an African American firefighter.

Jabari Jumaane sued the city in 2003 claiming race discrimination, racial harassment, and retaliation. Jumaane, now a 29 year veteran, pointed to a number of instances of discipline and transfers that occurred in the late 1990s and continuing into the early 2000’s as the basis for his allegations. The city argued that the acts which occurred over one year prior to his filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing were time barred from consideration by the statute of limitations.

At trial, a jury ruled against Jumaane, but the verdict was overturned based on juror misconduct. That ruling was upheld in 2010 on appeal. At his second trial in 2013, Jumaane was awarded $1.1 million in damages. The city renewed its argument over the statute of limitations asking for a judgment not withstanding the verdict. From the ruling:

  • The City argued that the evidence of events that occurred before April 16, 2001, was not part of a continuing violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code, § 12940 et seq.), and the evidence of events on and after April 16, 2001, was insufficient to prove disparate impact discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

The trial court denied the city’s motion and the city appealed. In a 20 page ruling issued today, the California Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate District agreed with the city. From the ruling:

  • It appears that almost all the events that plaintiff describes as harassment took place before 2000.
  • The only evidence to which plaintiff refers within the limitations period is one reference to “the unwarranted discipline.”
  • As we have seen, plaintiff served a 10-day suspension in 1999, which is outside the limitations period.
  • On February 15, 2001, the Department imposed a 15-day suspension which plaintiff served April 16 through April 30, 2001.
  • A disciplinary suspension does not constitute harassment under FEHA as a matter of law.
  • In sum, there is no substantial evidence of harassment within the one-year limitations period.
  • There Is No Substantial Evidence to Support a Claim of Retaliation for Plaintiff’s Complaints About Race Discrimination or Harassment Within the Limitations Period
  • The judgment is reversed and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of Appellant. Appellant City of Los Angeles is to recover its costs of appeal.

Here is a copy of the ruling: Jumaane v Los Angeles

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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