Houston Firefighter Sues City and Union Alleging Discrimination Over Interracial Marriage

A Houston firefighter who was accused of making a racially disparaging remark about black women, and subsequently retaliated against when it was discovered he was married to black woman, has filed suit alleging race discrimination and discrimination on account of his interracial marriage. Nicholas A. Dahl filed suit against the city and Houston Professional Firefighters, IAFF Local 341.

The complaint does not fully explain all the details, so rather than speculate beyond what is  alleged, here is what it says:

  • Plaintiff has been a firefighter with 18 years of experience. Plaintiff has been employed with the Houston Fire Department for the same amount of years.
  • Plaintiff is a white male and is married to an African American female, a member of a historically protected class.
  • Plaintiff was targeted, unjustly, for punishment and malevolent treatment by Defendants.
  • Plaintiff was going to be suspended for 90 days as a result of violations of Houston Fire Department policy, but this punishment was modified to 6 months of Plaintiff receiving only half compensation for his work.
  • The issue is that these violations are not true. Furthermore, a number of employees behind these employment allegations made against Plaintiff have ulterior motives compelling their false allegations against Plaintiff.
  • Plaintiff had been employed with the Houston Fire Department for about 18 years. During the duration of these 18 years of employment, Plaintiff was never accused of unsafe driving or not following safety protocol. These safety violation allegations against Plaintiff were never asserted until Plaintiff was accused of making racially derogatory statements about black woman.
  • Plaintiff did make reference to black women, but he made reference to black women because he was married to one, at the time of the subject conversation giving rise to the violations that lead to his discipline.
  • As for the Local 341 defendant, it has not only failed to represent Plaintiff’s best interest, it has conspired with other parties affiliated with the City of Houston to punish Plaintiff for unwarranted reasons.
  • Plaintiff asked Local 341 defendant to investigate the allegations and speak to certain people and review certain circumstances and documentation. However, Local 341 refused to do any of those things or consider exculpatory evidence that would tend to vindicate Plaintiff. But Local 341 refused to represent Plaintiff’s best interests. Local 341 worked against plaintiff’s best interests, intentionally.
  • Plaintiff is still employed with the Houston Fire Department but fears his employment is at risk. Furthermore, Plaintiff has been injured financially as a result of being unjustly punished in a manner that has taken away half of his compensation for six months.

Dahl alleges race discrimination until Title VII, violations of his constitutional right to Equal Protection under 42 USC §1983, and breach of the union’s duty of fair representation.

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.
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