Jury comes to decision in KCFD racism case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Jackson County jurors decided on Wednesday in favor of the city of Kansas City on two of the three counts in a race discrimination case.

Firefighter Eric Sanders sued the city and a fire captain for denying him the opportunity for promotions because of his race.

Sanders, who is black, claimed he was repeatedly subjected to a racially hostile work environment; a place where fellow firefighters used derogatory language. Sanders claimed because of his racism complaints to the city, his captain and fellow firefighters retaliated against him, refusing him adequate training.

The city argued, rather, he was treated differently because Sanders showed subpar work performance. The city argued its EEOC office had done its own investigation on Sanders' claims and found no wrongdoing. But jurors only found the city guilty on Sanders' claims of retaliation.

Jurors awarded Sanders $90,000 in damages on the retaliation claim. It’s a victory Sanders and his attorney hope will ring out in stations across the city.

"I hope this is a wake up call to the fire department so that more people can feel that they can come forward," Sanders’ attorney Lynne Bratcher said.

“This fight is not about me, it’s about young guys," Sanders said, who hopes the next generation of firefighters will speak up about alleged problems in the workplace.

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said he plans to reinforce current policies to make sure everyone is treated fairly in KCFD.

"There will certainly be some training. Anytime anyone feels like they've been mistreated, then that certainly deserves my attention to look at practices and training to see what things can be done to make sure that everybody feels treated with respect at work," he said. 

Sanders’ attorneys said they were happy with the jurors’ decision and have no plans to appeal.

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