LA firefighter served dog food settles with city for $2.7M; says meal was discrimination

Thursday, November 9th 2006, 10:50 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) The city is paying $2.7 million to settle a lawsuit brough by a black firefighter who claims he suffered racial discrimination after co-workers served him spaghetti laced with dog food.

The City Council approved the award Wednesday, 11-1.

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.

The department takes seriously the issues raised by the lawsuit, Fire Chief William Bamattre said.

``It has been and remains our goal to create a positive workplace environment that supports all men and women that comprise the workforce of the Fire Department,'' he said.