City of Pensacola Sued in Federal Court for Retaliation and Discrimination


(PNS) A Civil complaint was filed August 24, 2016, in the United States District Court For The Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Florida by Matthew Schmitt, former Interim Chief of Pensacola Fire Department against the City of Pensacola, Ashton Hayward, Eric Olson and Edward Sisson and defendants.

The suit states that the defendants were in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and 42 U.S.C.    1981a; and through 42 U.S.C. 1981 (via 42 U.S.C.      1983).

Plaintiff Matthew Schmitt, the Interim Chief of the Pensacola Fire Department, was employed with the Pensacola Fire Department from October 1, 1979, until his termination on or around May 10, 2016.  Plaintiff began his career as a fireman and earned promotions until he was appointed as Deputy Fire Chief and ultimately Interim Fire Chief.  Plaintiff served as Interim Fire Chief since 2010.

In the Interim Fire Chief role, Plaintiff reported directly to the City Administrator, Eric Olson.  The Mayor, Ashton Hayward, manages all city employees, including the Plaintiff, and the Chief Human Resources Officer, Ed Sisson, effectuates and manages the employment status of all City of Pensacola employees.

On September 3, 2015, Plaintiff attended a meeting with Defendant Olson to discuss raises for exempt employees and non-bargaining unit employees.

In this meeting, Plaintiff relayed concerns to Defendant Olson about the racially motivated discrimination that Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Glover (African American) was experiencing from the Chief Human Resources Officer, Defendant Sission.

In this same meeting, Plaintiff also relayed concerns to Defendant Olson that Deputy Chief Glover was not being paid appropriately due to similar racial animus on behalf of Defendant Sisson.

On September 20, 2015, Plaintiff again met with Defendant Olson and expressed his concerns over the racial discrimination that Deputy Chief Glover was experiencing

Defendant Olson did nothing to address the concerns expressed by Plaintiff in either of the September meetings, stating that Deputy Chief Glover simply needed to move on.

On December 4, 2015, Plaintiff submitted paperwork to the City for requested pay increases to eight (8) exempt fire department employees, including himself.  On December 7, 2015, Defendant Olson informed Plaintiff that Plaintiff would not receive the requested pay raise.

On December 8, 2015, Deputy Chief Glover filed an EEOC charge against the City for racial discrimination.  On December 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed his EEOC charge for discrimination and retaliation (Charge #425-2016-00280).  On February 2, 2016, Plaintiff and Deputy Chief Glover were informed by the Assistant City Administrator, Keith Wilkins, and the City of Human Resources Manager, Tracy Walsh, that they both were placed on indefinite administrative leave.

On February 2, 2016, both Plaintiff and Deputy Chief Glover requested n administrative appeal to the personnel board.  On February 2, 2016, the City removed the section from the Human Resources Manual allowing for an administrative appeal to the personnel board.

On February 9, 2016, Defendant Olson stated in an interview with News Radio 1620 that both Plaintiff and Deputy Chief Glover were placed on administrative leave in response to the EEOC complaints they filed.

The failure of the City and the other Defendants to address and rectify the racial discrimination and retaliation that Plaintiff reported multiple times amounts to a violation of Title VII and 1981.

The decision by the City and the other Defendants to retaliate against Plaintiff by refusing a pay raise, subjecting him to a frivolous investigation, placing him on administrative leave, changing the appeals process in the HR Manual, and ultimately terminating his employment, amount to violations of Title VII and 1981.

The Pensacola Voice attempted to contact the Mayor, Ashton Hayward, but he was unavailable for comment.

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