Miami-Dade Firefighter Files Discrimination Suit

A Miami-Dade firefighter has filed suit contending he has been subjected to discriminatory treatment on account of his Cuban ancestry and his skin color. Tony Ibanez filed suit against the Miami-Dade Fire Department alleging “relentless race discrimination and national origin discrimination” in violation of both federal and state law.

Ibanez contends that several supervisors made discriminatory remarks and even assaulted him while he was working. According to the complaint:

  • At all material times, the Plaintiff, TONY IBANEZ, was/is a Black, Cuban male.
  • Mr. Ibanez identifies as a Black man whose national origin is Cuban.
  • In or around December 2016, Mr. Ibanez began to experience hateful and discriminatory remarks in relation to his race and national origin on a continuing basis, while at work, by NICKI LATTIMORE, a Captain and employee of Defendant MDFR.
  • At all times relevant to this action, Lattimore held direct supervisory authority over the Plaintiff, controlling the various terms and conditions of his employment.
  • On numerous occasions, Lattimore referred to Mr. Ibanez and other Hispanic employees of MDFR as “SPICS”.
  • During discussions of the fraud crime rates in Miami-Dade County, Lattimore would also use phrases such as “ALL YOU SPICS ARE LIKE THAT”.
  • On at least three (3) separate occasions, Lattimore physically assaulted Mr. Ibanez by punching him in the shoulder and arm while he was driving the fire truck on the way to an active call.
  • Lattimore struck Mr. Ibanez several times in the head, causing Mr. Ibanez significant pain and emotional distress.
  • On one occasion, Mr. Ibanez fell ill while working and told his co-workers about the symptoms he was experiencing.
  • In response, Lattimore told Mr. Ibanez to “MAN UP” and to “STOP BEING A PUSSY.”
  • Lattimore taunted Mr. Ibanez by stating “YOU AIN’T GOING HOME, I AIN’T LETTING YOU.”
  • Despite Lattimore making these comments in the presence of a former Fire Battalion Chief WILBUR HARBIN, no corrective or preventative action was taken in response to the hostile and disrespectful comments made by Mr. Ibanez’s supervisor.
  • In or about October 2017, Mr. Ibanez began to work for Battalion 5 Rescue 26 (“Station 26”).
  • As a result of the move, Mr. Ibanez’s new supervisor became JOSE MENDEZ and Lieutenant L was the Officer in Charge.
  • On or about October 11, 2018, L invited the crew of Station 26 to come eat dinner at the dining table.
  • It was common practice for L to ring the bells at Station 26 to announce dinner time.
  • At dinner, Mr. Ibanez noticed that L had intentionally excluded a Black firefighter from dinner.
  • Mr. Ibanez brought the issue to L’s attention, to which she responded, “I DON’T CARE”.
  • Mr. Ibanez was shocked and appalled by L’s discriminatory conduct and refused to take part.
  • Mr. Ibanez got up from the dinner table and promptly invited the Black firefighter to join the crew at the dinner table.
  • When the Black firefighter arrived at the dinner table, he complained “YOU DIDN’T GET ME BECAUSE I AM BLACK. Y’ALL ARE RACIST.”
  • L then began to mock Mr. Ibanez and the Black firefighter by asking “WHY DO N[word] SMELL LIKE FISH?”
  • This comment was not an isolated incident.
  • On multiple occasions, L made comments targeting African Americans by stating that predominantly Black neighborhoods “LOOK LIKE SHIT.”
  • L also made stereotypical and demeaning comments such as “BLACK PEOPLE SUCK THE GOVERNMENT DRY”, “BLACK PEOPLE RAISE THEIR KIDS LIKE ANIMALS”, and “BLACK PEOPLE ARE LAZY.”
  • During Mr. Ibanez’s employment at Station 26, L made work unbearable for Mr. Ibanez.
  • L regularly berated Mr. Ibanez and was needlessly critical towards him, in front of other firefighters.

Ibanez also claims that after he was injured during a training exercise, he was denied proper medical care. The suit alleges the discrimination was intentional and seeks punitive damages as well as compensatory damages for his being “humiliated, degraded, victimized, embarrassed and [having] suffered severe emotional and physical distress.”

Here is a copy of the complaint

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

Check Also

Jury Awards $250k to Nashville Deputy Fire Marshal

The City of Nashville has been ordered by a federal court jury to pay a deputy fire marshal $250,000 plus attorneys fees. Maggie Lawrence claimed she was the victim of gender, race and age discrimination when she was passed over for promotion to fire marshal in 2022.

Light-Duty Denial Prompts Gender, Disability and Pregnancy Discrimination Suit in Ohio

An Ohio firefighter is suing her department alleging gender, disability and pregnancy discrimination following the denial of her request for a light-duty assignment. Melissa Holland filed suit against Washington Township claiming the fire department’s decision to limit light-duty assignments to job-related injuries is unlawful.