Kansas City Fire Department sued for racism

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A Kansas City firefighter claims racism rules over some of the decisions at the Kansas City Fire Department. He is now suing the city and a fire captain for damages.

Firefighter Eric Sanders, who is black, claims in the suit that his superior denied him the opportunity for promotions because of one thing: his race.

Sanders started working at Station 10 in 2011. It is the city's busiest station located at 9th and Paseo where they respond up to six fire calls a day.

Sanders was one of two black employees at Station 10 at that time. There, Sanders said he was repeatedly subjected to a racially hostile and offensive work environment. He said it was a place where fellow firefighters ignored him and used the derogatory "N" word; he said one employee was overheard saying "N's are lazy people."

He also claimed that his Captain, Dennis Barrett, told Sanders when he was first employed that working at Station 10 "wouldn't be a good situation." Sanders said Captain Barrett knew of his complaints but encouraged coworkers to berate Sanders.

On Wednesday, a fellow firefighter told the Jackson County court that Station 10's employees did ostracize Sanders but admitted that he got trouble on occasion because he performed poorly on the job.

Fire Chief Paul Berardi said many white employees, among the fire department's 1,300 employees, have not been promoted within the department. One firefighter on the stand admitted that another black employee at the station had been treated fairly.

The Chief added the city had investigated Sanders’ claims, interviewed all of his co-workers and found no wrongdoing based on race.

The case could go to a jury by the end of the week.

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