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There is much ‘buzz’ in the community about the two White fire captains who received a combined $1.6 million to settle their reverse discrimination lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for the treatment they received after Black firefighter Tennie Pierce reported that someone had placed dog food in his spaghetti at the fire station.
The Los Angeles City Attorney reviewed the facts of that case and the lawsuit Pierce filed seeking legal redress for the discriminatory action he unwittingly endured at the hands of his co-workers.
Towards the end of the 2006, the Los Angeles City Council accepted the City Attorney’s recommendation and voted to award Pierce $2.7 million for racial harassment, but, because some White council persons publicly objected to what they described as an excessive settlement, the mayor did not approve the settlement offer and the matter eventually went to trial.
Pierce was finally awarded $1.5 million while the City reportedly spent $1.3 million on legal fees, selected a Black Fire Chief to implement systematic changes within the department, and attempted to address the numerous claims of unfair, discriminatory, and racially and sexually-motivated act against some members of the fire department.
Fast-forward to the present fire department settlement.
Two White captains, John Tohill and Chris Burton sued the city at about the same time Pierce filed his lawsuit, charging that treatment and disciplinary action they endured, as a result of the Pierce incident, where a Latino firefighter had actually placed the dog food in Pierce’s food, caused them past and future pain an suffering and lost earnings.
According to public reports, “Burton, who will be retiring in the next few years, received $507,500 for past pain and suffering, $72,500 for future pain and suffering and $11,808 in past lost earnings. Tohill received $467,250 in lost future earnings, $367,500 for past pain and suffering, $210,000 for future pain and suffering, and $7,488 in past lost earnings”
When the Los Angeles Sentinel contacted Pierce to get his reaction to the settlement, he said. “I have no comment about it. It is wrong but they won in court. Basically,” he added when asked to give an overview of the nature of their complaint, “they said that the Latino who actually placed the dog food in my plate received less punishment than they did and that was unfair.”
Apparently the 12-member jury agreed and this most recent settlement will be added to over $13 million the City has paid-out over the last two years including over $6 million paid to a Black female firefighter who was forced out, because she is Black and lesbian.
Fire Chief Douglas L. Barry issued a statement following the verdict, indicating that harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated while the department is working on numerous initiatives to improve the disciplinary process.
“The Fire Department takes all work environment issues that generated this litigation very seriously and continues to maintain a policy of zero tolerance towards discrimination, harassment or retaliation,” Barry said.