KCK Firefighter Alleges Race and Disability Discrimination

A Kansas City Kansas firefighter who is facing termination has filed suit alleging race and disability discrimination.

Jyan Harris filed suit this week in US District Court against the Kansas City Fire Department, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/City of Kansas City, and Kansas City Firefighters IAFF Local 64, accusing them of disparate treatment race and disability discrimination, race based hostile work environment discrimination, and retaliation based upon race and disability.

Harris claims his problems began in 2013 when he was struck by a car while on duty. He alleges that chief officers harassed him and his doctor for medical documentation of his injuries, and then placed him on personal sick leave instead of injury leave. He claims the union failed to resolve the problem.

Harris, who identifies himself in the complaint as African-American, alleges “Caucasian employees who were injured on the job were not forced to use any of their sick or vacation time while off work due to an on-the-job injury.”

In 2015, Harris claims he was involuntarily transferred to a new assignment that “caused [him] to lose all of his chosen vacation days for the year and forced him to cancel two planned family vacations.”

  • Immediately upon beginning work at Station 10, Plaintiff was subjected to a pattern of repeated harassment by his supervisor, Chief Bob Blevins, Acting Operations Chief.
  • Chief Blevins yelled at, hurled expletives at, and made degrading comments to Plaintiff as well as pounded the table with his fist directly in front of Plaintiff’s face.
  • On or about June 9, 2016, Plaintiff reported Chief Blevins’ harassment and the hostile environment to Unified Government Human Resource Manager Shakeva Christian.

Harris was injured again in June, 2016 in an in-station accident following which time he was further harassed for the fire department’s administration. He also claims at about this time he became aware of a disciplinary investigation into his having worked at the Parks and Recreation Summer Camp while he was off-sick from the fire department in 2014. In September, 2016 he was suspended without pay pending termination and has remained in that status since then.

In his defense, Harris attributes the allegations that he was working another job while off sick to the department’s shift-swapping policy, stating “The only reason (or reasons) Plaintiff alone is being punished for a practice that is widely supported by Defendants is because of his race, his disability, and/or his opposition to discrimination he has already suffered.”

Here is a copy of the complaint: Harris v Kansas City Kansas

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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