A lawsuit Friday by about 30 black firefighters alleges systematic racial discrimination within the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, claiming that black employees face harsher discipline, are promoted less often and confront a hostile work environment imposed by white supervisors.
The 31-page suit, which lawyers say was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, contains information potentially embarrassing to the department. It refers by name to at least 10 white firefighters accused or convicted of various misconduct. It also refers to black firefighters who committed similar offenses.
In a virtual rap sheet, the suit describes cases in which firefighters have been arrested for stalking, assault and illegal handgun possession; disciplined for fighting or injuring fellow firefighters with knives and plates; and investigated for e-mailing images of their sexual organs to female colleagues and cooking naked in firehouses.
“I have been trying disciplinary cases before the department for years, and time after time, I see that disciplinary actions taken against African Americans are different from disciplinary actions against whites for the same alleged offenses,” said plaintiff’s lawyer Donna Rucker of the D.C. law firm Gebhardt & Associates.
Pete Piringer, spokesman for the D.C. fire department, declined comment Friday, saying officials had not had the opportunity to review the lawsuit.
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