LAFD Facing Yet Another Discrimination Lawsuit

The Los Angeles City Fire Department is again facing another employment discrimination lawsuit, this time by a group of fire prevention inspectors who claim they have been harassed and discriminated against.

The suit was filed yesterday in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Battalion Chief Jerome Boyd, Captain Gary Carpenter, Captain Andre Johnson, Captain David Riles, Inspector Aaron Walker and Inspector Glenn Martinez. The complaint describes Chief Boyd, Captain Carpenter, Captain Johnson, David Riles, and Inspector Walker as African American and Inspector Martinez as Hispanic.

Besides the City of Los Angesles, the suit names Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas, former Fire Marshal John Vidovich, and Assistant Chief Kwame Cooper as defendants. You may recall Chief Vidovich was removed as Fire Marshal last year following his efforts to resolve a long-standing back-log of overdue fire inspections. He recently filed his own suit against the city.

From the suit:

  • From the outset of FPB’s creation, and continuing on an ongoing basis up to and including the present, African-American and female firefighters, and anyone associated with them within the FPB have been referred to, labeled, characterized, identified, regarded and branded by others within the LAFD as lazy and afraid to fight fires, which is why they go to FPB.
  • Due to this Department wide systemic racial and gender animus, Plaintiffs have continuously and systematically been looked down upon and subjected to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation because of their African-American race and association with other African-American firefighters.
  • The LAFD is essentially an all white boys club, and anyone who fails to align themself with this mentality is looked down upon and treated differently.
  • The LAFD’s systemic racial and gender animus is evidenced by the referral to several fire stations, including Station 66, Station 33, and Station14, as “Black [African-American] free zones.” African-American and female firefighters are also subjected to different standards in passing background checks and being admitted into the Department, which prevents most African American and female applicants from becoming LAFD firefighters.
  • Furthermore, African-American and female firefighters within the Department are subjected to unwarranted prejudicial, higher levels of scrutiny designed to prevent them from promoting.
  • All of their assignments, work performance, projects, and/or complaints are scrutinized more closely than their white male counterparts.
  • This prevents most African-American and female firefighters, and any associated with them, from promoting to higher positions within the FPB and LAFD as a whole.
  • African-American and female firefighters, and anyone associated with them within the FPB, are often referred to as “slugs.”
  • The discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against Plaintiffs intensified when Plaintiffs reported, identified, informed, described, and otherwise disclosed various acts of misconduct and activity they reasonably believed to be a violation of statute and noncompliance with a local, state and/or federal regulation to their supervisors and others in the chain of command at LAFD. Plaintiffs further refused to engage in certain activities that they reasonably believed would have violated state and/or federal regulations, rules, and statutes.
  • Fire Marshal Vidovich stated, on several occasions, that “we want to weed out the internal terrorists,” referring to Plaintiffs and the individuals who spoke out against the unlawful businesses practices of the LAFD and FPB, and who opposed Operation Catch-Up. These statements were made at weekly staff meetings as well as weekly all supervisors

Here is a copy of the complaint: Boyd 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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