Jury Awards Lansing Firefighter $1 Million in Damages For Discrimination

A Lansing firefighter who filed a race discrimination suit in 2019, and a second discrimination suit in 2020 alleging retaliation and violation of his First Amendment rights, has been awarded $1 million in damages by a federal court jury. Michael Lynn Jr. filed the first suit after he discovered a banana placed between the windshield and the wiper of his assigned truck.

Lynn claimed that he and other African American firefighters were being subjected to a hostile work environment, and the city failed to address it. He claims the banana was left as a message to him and others. According to the Lansing State Journal, the trial lasted five days, and the $1 million is strictly for damages. Lynn’s attorney will be seeking an additional award of damages and costs.

Lynn was ultimately fired in 2021 after he posted the city police chief’s city-issued cellphone number on Facebook. His termination is currently being grieved and a wrongful termination claim was not an issue in the jury’s award. The second suit was filed in state court, and according to the Lansing State Journal, has been dismissed by agreement of the parties.

Lynn was quoted as saying the verdict was vindication. “My reputation was challenged, my integrity was challenged — all the way up until this point. So, I feel like this is definitely vindication.” More on the story.

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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