Michigan Lieutenant Alleges Race Discrimination

A paid-on-call lieutenant in Michigan has filed suit claiming his fire department discriminated against him on account of his race. Lieutenant Gary Reid alleges that the Farmington Hills Fire Department changed the requirements for promotion and transferred him to prevent him from promoting.

Lt. Reid filed suit in US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan naming the City of Farmington Hills, and Fire Chief Jon Unruh as defendants. The factual allegations are lengthy and somewhat confusing, but claim that each time Lt. Reid sought to promote, the promotional requirements changed to his disadvantage. He further claims that by transferring him from Station 2, where he was second in command, to Station 4, it made it impossible for him to be promoted to district chief.

Quoting from the complaint:

  • Plaintiff is an African-American man.
  • Plaintiff was denied the opportunity to apply for positions within the City of Farmington Hills – Fire Department that other White counterparts with lesser qualifications were allowed to apply for with the department.
  • At Station 2 Plaintiff was the highest-ranking officer within his classification and historically would be in line for District Chief. At Station 4 there was a Captain and District Chief, making it impossible for Plaintiff to ever be promoted to District Chief at Station 4.
  • While neutral on its face, Defendant City of Farmington Hills – Fire Department maintains an unofficial practice of only promoting White men to the District Chief position.
  • Defendant City of Farmington Hills – Fire Department unofficial policy serves to exclude employees from valuable professional development opportunities based on their race that is a requirement for the District Chief position.

The complaint includes three counts: a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; a constitutional due process/equal protection violation actional under 42 USC 1981; and state law race discrimination claim under the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act.

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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