Part-Time Marine Mechanic Sues San Francisco Claiming Race Discrimination

A part-time marine mechanic who was hired by the City of San Francisco to maintain the fire department’s fleet, has filed suit claiming race discrimination. According to NBC Bay Area, Lawrence Thomas filed suit yesterday. Additional details about the suit are not available. There is nothing on the docket of either the San Francisco County Superior Court or the US District Courts.

NBC Bay Area reports that Thomas is the first African American fireboat engineer hired by the department, but has been prevented from working at Station 35, which it labeled as “whites only.” Captain Sherman Tillman, president of the San Francisco Black Firefighters Association, was quoted as saying “This is a man we should be celebrating not denigrating.” He pointed to the fact that Thomas’ predecessor, who was white, averaged $70,000 annually while Thomas received just $10,000 last year.

The suit reportedly names a now retired firefighter, David Hawkins, as a co-plaintiff who was retaliated against for standing up for Thomas. Hawkins was reportedly forced to leave the department. A copy of the complaint is not available.

UPDATE: 7/29/2020 – The initial coverage of this story indicated that the primary allegations in the suit were related to the claims of Lawrence Thomas. A copy of the lawsuit, which was filed yesterday in San Francisco County Superior Court, has been obtained and indicated that the lead plaintiff is FF David Hawkins. Hawkins alleges he was subjected to a number of racially hostile incidents during his career, culminating in his resignation on June 30, 2020. The complaint includes the race discrimination allegations of his fellow plaintiff, Thomas. Here is the 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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