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Michigan firefighter files lawsuit alleging discrimination

February 2, 2019

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An African-American firefighter has filed a federal lawsuit alleging leaders in the city of Lansing failed to stop racial discrimination in the fire department.

Michael Lynn Jr. filed a civil complaint last month in U.S. District Court alleging other firefighters frequently commented on his race and qualifications, which created a hostile work environment, The Lansing State Journal reported .

Lynn also alleges the city retaliated against him after he complained about the situation — a charge officials have denied.

“While the city emphatically denies the allegations in this lawsuit, the city takes all such complaints seriously,” Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said in a statement.

The department hired Lynn in 2014 through a program that aimed to increase diversity, but other firefighters disliked the program and created a hostile work environment for minorities, the lawsuit alleges.

Lynn said the discrimination escalated until a banana was left on the windshield of his truck in 2017. Lynn said he felt it was harassment and intimidation.

“He had been subjected to a lot of racially hostile comments and things that were directed at his race before that, so when he went to his rig and there was a banana on the windshield, that was pretty direct,” said Scott Batey, Lynn’s attorney.

Batey provided the newspaper with records that show Lynn was cited for issues including inciting a fight, incorrectly requesting sick time and insubordination. Batey alleged that at least one of the reports contained lies.

“We’re confident we’re going to be able to show that it’s false,” Batey said.

Lynn is still employed at the department, according to a department spokeswoman. Lynn said he’s now working in the maintenance and alarm division, which keeps him separate from the staff with whom he has clashed.

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