In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, a former West Columbia, South Carolina firefighter claims he was fired because he is white.
Michael A. Jordan, of Lexington County, South Carolina, is suing the City of West Columbia for race discrimination, gender discrimination and retaliation.
Jordan worked for the West Columbia Fire Department for ten years, most recently as a lieutenant in 2019, according to the lawsuit.
In April 2019, a female firefighter accused Jordan of making homophobic remarks and harassing her, according to the lawsuit.
The claims were then investigated and detemined to be false, according to the lawsuit.
Jordan told his captain, a black man, that he felt targeted as a male “having to continually fight false accusations,” the lawsuit said.
In May 2019, West Columbia firefighters were preparing food when one of the white male firefighters asked a white female firefighter about watermelons.
“How do you know when watermelons are ready to be picked?” the firefighter asked, according to the lawsuit.
Another firefighter allegedly then said it was a good thing he didn’t ask the captain, who was black, that question because it could have been taken the wrong way, according to the lawsuit. Jordan claims he did not hear the comment.
Several other firefighters started to laugh, the lawsuit said.whitemanlawsuit
Jordan then started talking about how he used to plant watermelons with his grandfather, according to the lawsuit.
Three days later, the deputy chief and captain began investigating the incident and asked the firefighters individually what was said.
Then, five days later, Jordan was asked to resign or he would be fired immediately, according to the lawsuit.
According to the form he was given, he was forced to resign because he did not take action after the alleged watermelon comment was made, the lawsuit stated.
Jordan later asked the HR rep to provide him for more information for his termination, who said it was ultimately because of the “watermelon incident,” according to the lawsuit.
Jordan claims that other employees who are not white and/or male did not report the “watermelon incident” and they received less severe punishments.
The lawsuit did not say if the firefighter who made the comment was fired.
Jordan “believes that he has been discriminated against because of his race and gender, and ultimately retaliated against for reporting this treatment,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims he was discriminated because of his race and gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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The City of West Columbia ultimately terminated Jordan from his position “because he is white,” and assumed “he was complicit in the perpetuation of racist stereotypes by other white employee, the lawsuit said.
Columbia attorney Julius W. Babb is representing Jordan in the lawsuit.
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