LA County Fire Makes Partial Concession to Lifeguard on Raising Pride Flag

The Los Angeles County Fire Department lifeguard captain who filed suit last month challenging a mandate that he raise the Progress Pride Flag during Pride Month, has received a partial accommodation. Captain Jeffrey Little filed suit alleging that the county withdrew a religion-based accommodation, and found him to have violated the county’s Policy of equity.

The suit was filed on May 24, 2024. According to a press release issued by the Thomas Moore Society, the county granted Captain Little an accommodation from having to personally raise the Progress Pride Flag, but would have to ensure that subordinates raise the flag.

The press release quoted a Thomas Moore Society attorney who represented Captain Little, Paul Jonna, as saying:

“For nearly a year, the Los Angeles County Fire Department has ignored Captain Little’s pleas for a religious accommodation. In response to our federal lawsuit, they have finally begun to take some steps in the right direction—but not nearly enough. Captain Little is rightfully and legally due a full and complete standing exemption from this policy—and the solution is simple. Yet instead of developing a practical and workable long-term solution, the Fire Department is continuing to insist that Captain Little violate his sincere religious beliefs in order to keep his job. In the face of discrimination, harassment, and threats, Captain Little has courageously stood on principle and brought this flagrant constitutional violation into the limelight. We understand that L.A. County has received hundreds of similar exemption requests. We will continue prosecuting this case in federal court until we fully vindicate the constitutional rights of Captain Little and others like him.”

The press release quoted Captain Jeffrey Little, as saying:

“My hope is that this lawsuit encourages productive dialogue between employees of faith and their employers. No employee should be expected to abandon their faith when entering the workplace and unfortunately, I felt backed into a corner where my faith was incompatible with the requirements of my job. My prayer is that people of faith will flourish in the workplace and not feel as if they need to hide that part of themselves in order to be successful in their jobs.”

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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