Everett Firefighter Sues Alleging Race Discrimination

An Everett, Washington firefighter has filed suit alleging race discrimination and retaliation. Jason O. Anderson filed suit last week in US District Court for the Western District of Washington alleging one court of race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and one count of retaliation.

Anderson claims he was subjected to a variety of derogatory comments and names during his eighteen-year career. When he reported the conduct, the city took no action and his colleagues shunned him. Quoting from the complaint:

  • Soon after he began working, his supervisors and co-workers began making comments about his race and color, including his then-Captain saying that he was the “whitest black guy he’d ever seen.”
  • Despite knowledge that Mr. Anderson is African-American, co-workers and supervisors began referring to Mr. Anderson as “Juan” and later “taco boy” because of his light-brown complexion.
  • “Taco Boy” stickers and signs began appearing at his workstation, and an EFD supervisor assigned him the team name “La Migra” in EFD’s fantasy football league, which is Spanish slang for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  • At an EFD event, an outgoing supervisor made a comment to Mr. Anderson about “dumb n****.”
  • While responding to a fire emergency, a supervisor warned Mr. Anderson and another African-American EFD firefighter not to “throw up gang signs” while on the firetruck.
  • Sometime in 2019 or 2020, a sticker of a gorilla appeared on Mr. Anderson’s locker at the firehouse. The depiction of a gorilla dressed as a firefighter promoted one of the oldest racists tropes against African-Americans, comparing Blacks to apes and monkeys.
  • In 2019, Mr. Anderson reported the harassing conduct to his Battalion Chief, and was told, “we’ve all heard offensive comments” and “you need to suck it up.”
  • Mr. Anderson later reported the harassing conduct to EFD’s Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Chief. He also reported the harassing conduct to the City’s Human Resources department and the Mayor. They took no corrective measures and the harassment continued.
  • Soon after Mr. Anderson’s report to the City, an EFD Captain sent a department-wide email telling firefighters to “resist adding outrage culture into the amazing work environment that we have,” and urging personnel to “solve your issues at the lowest possible level.”
  • Since then, Mr. Anderson has received the silent treatment from some at work, and he has been unfairly scrutinized and downgraded in his performance.

Here is a copy of 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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