A Kansas City, Kansas firefighter who was suspended without pay in 2016 for working a second job while on sick leave, has been awarded $2.4 million in damages for race discrimination. Jyan Harris claims the department discriminated against him because he is African American. Here is our earlier coverage, including a copy of the complaint.
At the center of Harris’ claims are the record-keeping practices of the department relative to shift-swaps/substitutions. Bill Maccarone covered that aspect last week in his blog. It is a rather unusual twist on the importance of good FLSA recordkeeping for non-FLSA reasons. Essentially, the city could not establish that Harris had in fact “double-dipped” (ie that he had been paid by the fire department and by another city agency for the same hours) due to a lack of record keeping… particularly records related to shift-trades.
The federal court ruled in Harris’ favor, 10-0, awarding him $2.1 million in lost wages and retirement benefits and $300,000 for emotional distress.
KSHB Channel 41 quoted Wyandotte County Administrator Doug Bach as saying:
- While we support an inclusive fire department, this case has highlighted concerns among some of our personnel that we have more work to do.
- Our firefighters are on the front lines of our public safety and, in 2021, no one should feel unwelcome or wronged while on the job.
- Consequently, we are taking swift and decisive action to ensure that no one, no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion, feels mistreated or disadvantaged within our workplace.
- We are very concerned about the issues of bias and mistreatment our black firefighters raised in testimony.
- We have zero tolerance for this alleged behavior and will be working to address it immediately.