L.A. Fire Department Settles Harassment & Retaliation Case
The EEOC announced in a press release that the Los Angeles City Fire Department will pay $494,150 and implement widespread anti-harassment training to settle federal charges of discrimination filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
Anthony Almeida, a firefighter/engineer employed since 1986, filed an EEOC discrimination charge initially in 2007, alleging that he was continually harassed by fellow firefighters at his station who employed deeply offensive comments of a sexual and religious nature. An EEOC investigation uncovered that the harassment, which began in late 2006, appeared linked to a lawsuit filed against the Catholic Church by Almeida regarding sexual abuse he suffered by a priest. One coworker learned that Almeida had filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Church over the abuse, and several coworkers mocked him for that, using explicit and offensive religious and sexual epithets. Although Almeida complained about the harassment to management officials, the EEOC investigation found that the Fire Department failed to adequately halt or address it. Further, the investigation found that Almeida had suffered retaliatory discipline for his participation in another equal employment opportunity investigation.
Harassment of a sexual or religious nature, along with retaliation, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following a determination by the EEOC that there was reasonable cause to believe a violation of law occurred, the Los Angeles City Fire Department entered into a three-year conciliation agreement with the EEOC and Almeida, who was represented by private counsel. The agreement effectively settles the case administratively, thereby avoiding litigation. Aside from the monetary relief, the Fire Department agreed to provide widespread live anti-harassment training to all fire station chiefs and their subordinate staff, impacting every fire station in the city of Los Angeles. The Fire Department also agreed to continue to enforce its policies against discrimination, harassment and retaliation; to offer an external equal employment opportunity complaint procedure; to post a notice on the matter; to report future instances of harassment to the EEOC; and, to publicize the settlement via press release.
“We are pleased that the Los Angeles City Fire Department is demonstrating its commitment toward creating a workplace free of harassment and retaliation,” said Olophius Perry, district director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “By working with the EEOC this way, the Department is sending a message that no further civil rights abuses will be tolerated — a key responsibility of all employers.”
According to its website, the Los Angeles City Fire Department employs over 3,500 uniformed personnel and has 103 neighborhood fire stations across its 470 square-mile jurisdiction, protecting approximately four million people living within the city of Los Angeles.