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City Settles with Firefighter Who Alleged Racial Harassment and Discrimination

The city of Montebello has agreed to pay nearly $2.6 million to one of its firefighters who a jury in July 2015 found had suffered racial harassment and discrimination when he worked for the department. According to a news report in Whittier Daily News, the jury gave Vernon Creswell $750,000 for racial harassment and about $189,000 for retaliation. A jury later awarded his attorneys nearly $1.6 million. The city appealed the verdict, but has since withdrawn the case as a result of the settlement.

Creswell’s attorney said the some Montebello firefighters used racial slurs against his client. The lawsuit alleged that Creswell encountered a hostile work environment soon after he joined the department in 2008 as the department’s only black firefighter. His lawsuit claimed that then-battalion chief repeatedly used racial slurs. He also accused other members of the department for harassing him based on his race or for not acting when he reported such harassing behavior. The battalion chief has since been fired. The city is now providing more training as a result of the lawsuit, officials said.

What is Racial Harassment?

Race discrimination involves treating an applicant or an employee unfavorably because he or she is of a certain race or because of personal characteristics associated with a particular race such as hair texture, skin color or facial features. Color discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of their skin color or complexion. The law prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, pay promotions, layoffs, training, benefits, etc.

Harassment may include racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s race or color and display of racially offensive symbols. Harassment becomes illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in the victim getting fired or demoted. A harasser could be a victim’s supervisor, a co-worker or someone who might be a client or customer.

Relief for Victims

If you are experiencing race harassment or discrimination in your workplace, please remember that you have legal rights. You may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer seeking compensation for monetary damages as well as non-economic damages such as emotional distress. Contact an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.

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