NY Firefighter Alleges Anti-Union Discrimination

A career firefighter and union official with the Long Beach Fire Department has filed suit in federal court alleging he was terminated following a campaign of harassment directed at him by Long Beach volunteer firefighters.

Brian McNamara claims he was assaulted, harassed and retaliated against by the volunteers, then terminated by the department on trumped up charges on account of his union activities. McNamara was the secretary of Long Beach Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 287.

According to the complaint: “Plaintiff has been subjected to a pattern of harassment and discrimination in retaliation for his activities on behalf of the Union and its members, constituting multiple acts of retaliation for having exercised constitutionally protected rights of Speech and Assembly.”

Much of the controversy stems from an installation of officers banquet on May 10, 2014 extending into May 11, 2014 that McNamara claims led to a series of altercations. He attempted to board a city-supplied bus for the event but was hassled and physically prevented from entering by two volunteers.

  • When he tried to board the taxpayer-funded bus, he was physically prevented from entering the bus by two volunteer firefighters, James Jacobi (“Jacobi”) and Richard DiGiacomo (“DiGiacomo”).
  • Di Giacomo told Plaintiff in no uncertain terms that Plaintiff was “not welcome” on the bus. DiGiacomo placed his hand on Plaintiff’s chest to prevent him from boarding.
  • While Plaintiff was attempting to access the bus to join the people he was trying to leave with, both DiGiacomo and Jacobi shouted at Plaintiff, threatening Plaintiff with harm if he entered the bus, and insulting his abilities as a firefighter. As a result, a verbal altercation ensued between Plaintiff, Jacobi and DiGiacomo. At one point, Plaintiff said that at the last fire Jacobi was “walking around aimlessly” and not helping, which enraged Jacobi. Jacobi physically attacked Plaintiff and needed to be restrained from inflicting physical bodily harm on Plaintiff.

McNamara claims he was again assaulted at a post-event party at Station 2, but when he sought to file a complaint the following day he learned that complaints had been filed against him as well. Following an investigation into the May 10-11 incidents he was suspended and ultimately terminated by the City of Long Beach.

The suit seeks “compensatory, emotional, and psychological damages, injunctive relief, and any other damages”, as well as unspecified equitable relief. Named as defendants are the city of Long Beach, Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins, and city manager Jack Schnirman.

Here is a copy of the complaint: McNamara v Long Beach NY

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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