Ad Nauseum

Yet another public agency in this lovely state of ours is in the headlines (and in the red) due to the absolute stupidity ignorance of its employees.

(From CNN) LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — The city of Los Angeles is paying $2.7 million to settle a lawsuit from a black firefighter who claims he suffered racial discrimination after co-workers served him spaghetti laced with dog food.

The Los Angeles City Council approved the award Wednesday, 11 to 1.

In his lawsuit, firefighter Tennie Pierce, 51, said after he took a bite of the meal two years ago, he noticed other firefighters laughing. He demanded to know what was in the food after a second bite but nobody answered.

Pierce said he suffered retaliation for reporting the incident and verbal slurs, insults and derogatory remarks, including taunting by firefighters “barking like dogs [and] asking him how dog food tasted,” the lawsuit said.

David Wellman, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz hired by Pierce’s attorney, said the association of a black man and dog food “resonates with the deep historical roots of slavery and the corresponding dehumanization.”

“It’s not just silly stuff. It’s racially motivated,” he said.

As part of the settlement, the two captains involved were given one month off without pay, and a firefighter was ordered off work for three days without pay.

“I truly hope that my case will make a difference for African-Americans in the Los Angeles Fire Department,” Pierce said in a statement.

In what world would anyone think that this is acceptable workplace conduct? I know that there will be many critics of this decision (some of whom – including some members of SHRM – have already vocalized their dissent, blaming it all upon the “Republic of California”). I, however, don’t necessarily think it to be that excessive.

Employers owe it to their employees to provide a safe environment free of harassment and discrimination, something the employer failed to do in this case. Perhaps the only way to get some employers to stand up to inappropriate and unacceptable conduct is to hit them where it hurts – the wallet. And in this case, the loss of several employees for up to a month.

It seems however, being that this employer is the LA Fire Department, the ones who really are going to suffer are the people of Los Angeles, a city that it short-staffed on services to begin with.

Figures, doesn’t it?

One Reply to “Ad Nauseum”

  1. Well put. Never acceptable, but for me it is all the worse that it happened at a workplace where trust in your colleagues and employer is paramount as your life will be in their hands.

    (Fix and delete this part: there is a typo in the SHRM link)

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