FDNY Prevails in Second Discrimination Suit by Gordon Springs

An FDNY firefighter who filed suit in 2017 alleging he was sexually harassed and discriminated against on account of his race, has had a second, more recent federal lawsuit against the department and several of his colleagues, dismissed.

Gordon Springs claims he was sexual assaulted in 2015 at the Midtown Manhattan quarters of Engine Co. 40 and Ladder 35, known as The Cavemen. He also claims he was harassed and abused on an ongoing basis thereafter. He filed suit city in 2017 Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, Lieutenant Edward Vreeland, and FFs Pedro Aristy, Charles Swift and Peter Grillo as defendants. In that suit, most of the claims and the defendant firefighters have been dismissed. The remaining claims are scheduled for a jury trial pending the resumption of in-person court activities.

On December 17, 2019, Springs filed a second suit naming Commissioner Nigro, Captain Vincent Distefano, and FF Richard Davi, accusing them of retaliation and discrimination on the basis of race, sex, national origin, and sexual orientation.  These allegations allegedly arose out of Springs’ assignment later to Engine 67 in Manhattan.

The city moved to dismiss the 2019 suit, and in a decision handed down last Friday, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein granted that request. Judge Hellerstein concluded Springs’ allegations about retaliation arising out of his prior discrimination claims from 2015 were too tenuous, and his allegations that a series of relatively minor affronts (no one would substitute/shift trade with him; his captain questioned him about his hair was too long; the fact that firefighters cooked hamburgers in a pan previously used to cook bacon; and the failure to assign him his own mailbox) did not arise to the level of creating a hostile work environment.

Here is a copy of the ruling:

Here is a copy of the 2019 complaint:

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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