City to pay $2.7 million for prank
“It was a shocking betrayal for Mr. Pierce when he was targeted by people he considered brothers and then mercilessly harassed (him) out of a job that meant so much to him,” said attorney Genie Harrison. Council members said they approved the $2.7 million settlement with Pierce because of concerns that the city would have to pay out even more if it went to trial and lost the case. Only Councilman Dennis Zine voted against the agreement. “Firefighters and police officers play pranks on each other. I’ve had pranks played on me,” said Zine, who was an LAPD officer for 38 years. “I’m not saying what they did was right, but it wasn’t worth $2.7 million.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! In what may be the largest employee settlement in Los Angeles Fire Department history, the City Council agreed Wednesday to pay an African-American firefighter $2.7 million to end a racial harassment lawsuit filed after his colleagues put dog food in his spaghetti. The case comes as the LAFD gets close to completing a new, independent complaint and discipline investigation process to address long-standing complaints of sexual and racial harassment, hazing and retaliation within the department. But the fixes sought by the Los Angeles Fire Commission won’t save the Fire Department from several pending lawsuits. The latest settlement is the third major payout to a firefighter in six weeks. The city has already paid out $4 million to employees since 2000 and could be on the hook for even more. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’The case settled Wednesday was brought by 19-year veteran firefighter Tennie Pierce, who was working at a fire station in Westchester when colleagues gave him a plate of spaghetti for dinner. After a few bites, he noticed his colleagues laughing, so he stood up and demanded to know what they put in his food. They wouldn’t say until later, when another firefighter admitted they put dog food in his meal. Pierce said the incident was sparked by a volleyball game earlier that day when he’d bragged, “You guys keep feeding the Big Dog,” which was his nickname. But he felt the prank was offensive, humiliating and took on a particularly malicious character because he was African- American and his colleagues were not, according to his lawsuit. “Because of what happened to me, I could not trust people I worked with, and I could not continue to risk my life as a firefighter with people I did not trust to protect me,” Pierce said Wednesday in a statement. Worse, the complaint said, Pierce’s supervisors bought the can of dog food, watched the prank and later tried to cover up the incident. They were later suspended. Still, co-workers continued to harass Pierce about the dog food, barking at him and making jokes. He eventually took a leave from work.