Rhode Island city settles race discrimination suit


Government offices, such as fire departments, police precincts and the like, are certainly not immune from workplace discrimination. In fact, the City of Providence recently settled a claim which one of its firefighters made alleging he was the victim of discrimination based on his ethnicity.

The firefighter seems to be still be on active duty; however, he alleged the fire department improperly transferred him to another, presumably less prestigious post. He claimed this happened because of his race and that his old position got filled by a white colleague. The firefighter also contended that he had heard derogatory comments about his race and that firefighters of Hispanic origin could not use certain parking spaces which were open to others.

The fire department denied responsibility and argued that the firefighter got transferred as a sanction for misconduct, including flares of temper and refusal to follow orders from his supervisors. However, the city agreed to settle the claim and pay $7,500 to the firefighter, who has been working for the department for almost 20 years.

One should not necessarily assume, however, that the $7,500 implies what the fire department did was not that serious. For example, if the firefighter got to remain on the job at the same pay, he may not have incurred much financial loss, even though, as the firefighter said, the emotional damage from being mistreated was difficult to recover from.

Like any other worker in Rhode Island, an employee of the state, local, or even federal government has a legal right to workplace that is free from discrimination based on race and other protected classes. If a government employee feels he or she has been the victim of discrimination, even if he or she keeps his or her job, legal options may be available.

Source: WPRI, "Providence settles racial discrimination lawsuit with firefighter," Dan McGowan, Dec. 4, 2017

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