NC Firefighters Allege Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation

Two North Carolina firefighters have filed suit claiming they were the victims of a hostile work environment, age discrimination, and retaliation after they complained. Thomas Rumley and Robert Patterson filed separate suits against the City of Graham, Fire Chief Tommy Cole, Captain Jason Moore and City Manager Megan Garner.

The suits claim that Captain Moore created a hostile work environment shortly after he was hired in 2020, prompting 21 members of the department to file a hostile work environment claim with the EEOC. Thereafter both Rumley and Patterson faced particular scrutiny from Captain Moore and Chief Cole, culminating in their respective terminations.

Rumley’s suit was filed on April 16, 2024, alleging due process and equal protection violations under 42 U.S.C § 1983; a violation of North Carolina’s Wage and Hour Act for unpaid vacation time that was withheld upon dismissal; wrongful termination; breach of implied contract; tortious interference with an employment contract; and breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing.

Patterson’s suit was filed on May 13, 2024 alleging similar counts plus age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); hostile work environment under the ADEA; retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3; and failure to promote under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. Both suits were filed by the same law firm in US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

Here are copies of both suits:

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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