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Federal appeals court sides with Pasco firefighters in appeal of discrimination lawsuit

Times Staff Writers

A federal appeals court has reinstated a jury verdict for two firefighters who claimed Pasco County retaliated against them after they filed discrimination complaints seven years ago.

The 37-page opinion issued Thursday found that the county retaliated against firefighters Anthony Booth and Jerry Brown by requiring psychological tests to keep their jobs.

The case began in 2007 when Booth, who is Hispanic, filed a discrimination complaint against Fire Capt. Mark Bodden. Brown served as a witness for that charge and later filed his own complaint. Brown, whose wife is Jewish, claimed that Bodden made anti-Semitic remarks.

A trial judge set aside the discrimination case, but let a jury decide a separate claim in 2012 that the county and the Pasco County Professional Firefighters Union retaliated against the two.

The jury agreed that the union should not have posted a 2008 memo that identified the firefighters and labeled their claims "frivolous." It also said the county retaliated when it demanded the men undergo psychological tests after they said they couldn't trust co-workers who shunned them.

After the trial, the judge set aside the county's part of the damages, but upheld the union's.

Pasco and the union appealed those rulings, however the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the firefighters.

In its ruling, the court said: "The county ordered the examinations without ever speaking to plaintiffs or their supervisors. The county also failed, entirely, to investigate the potential factual basis for plaintiffs' statements, even after plaintiffs had been declared fit for duty."

The higher court awarded $23,000 in damages from the county to both of the men and $166,000 in damages from the union. Both men still work for Pasco Fire Rescue.

Federal appeals court sides with Pasco firefighters in appeal of discrimination lawsuit 07/03/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 3, 2014 9:30pm]
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