LOS ANGELES — The city is paying $2.7 million to settle a lawsuit from a black firefighter who claims he suffered racial discrimination after co-workers served him spaghetti laced with dog food.
The City Council approved the award Wednesday, 11-1.
In his lawsuit, firefighter Tennie Pierce, 51, said after he took a bite of the meal two years ago, he noticed other firefighters laughing. He demanded to know what was in the food after a second bite but nobody answered.
Pierce said he suffered retaliation for reporting the incident and verbal slurs, insults and derogatory remarks, including taunting by firefighters “barking like dogs (and) asking him how dog food tasted,” the lawsuit said.
David Wellman, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz hired by Pierce’s attorney, said the association of a black man and dog food “resonates with the deep historical roots of slavery and the corresponding dehumanization.”
“It’s not just silly stuff. It’s racially motivated,” he said.
As part of the settlement, the two captains involved were given one month off without pay, and a firefighter was ordered off work for three days without pay.
“I truly hope that my case will make a difference for African-Americans in the Los Angeles Fire Department,” Pierce said in a statement.
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