Wilmington Firefighter Files Race and Religious Discrimination Suit

A Wilmington, Delaware firefighter has filed suit against the department and three chief officers alleging race and religious discrimination. Corey Ferrell filed suit earlier this month naming the City of Wilmington, Fire Chief John Looney, Deputy Chief John Hoban, and Battalion Chief Andre Cooper.

Ferrell, a 23-year veteran who identifies himself in the complaint as a “Muslim African American,” claims that he “Was Subjected to Constant Discrimination Because of His Race and Religion” throughout his career. The complaint lists a series of incidents which contribute to a hostile work environment, including:

  • A lieutenant referring to “a black woman who was walking down the street a ‘black n[word] b[word]’ while Plaintiff was riding in a truck with him.”
  • A captain referring to him as “boy.”
  • “On multiple occasions, firefighters would physically harass Plaintiff and call Plaintiff a ‘black motherfucker’, ‘black bastard’ and refer to him as ‘you people’ when he was at the Fire Department.”
  • “When Plaintiff would pray, firefighters would state to him ‘there goes ali baba on his magic carpet.’”
  • “While at the station, firefighters would play the Aladdin theme song to Plaintiff whenever he would go to pray.”
  • “On another occasion at the fire station, other firefighters poured pork grease into Plaintiff’s coffee cup, even after knowing he cannot consume pork because of his religious beliefs.”
  • “On July 6, 2021, while Plaintiff was putting on his uniform, Plaintiff found an unopened can of pork sandwich meat in his coat pocket.”

Ferrell claims he reported these instances and more to officers and human resources, but they were either not investigated or no discipline was handed down. He further alleges he was targeted for discipline. None of the instances of offensive behavior involve the named defendants. Rather, they are accused of being aware of the misconduct and being “deliberately indifferent” to it.

The suit alleges one count of race discrimination under Title VII, one count of religious discrimination under Title VII, and one count of an equal protection violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a racially and religiously hostile work environment.

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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