Fla. firefighter files disability discrimination lawsuit against dept.

Eduardo Mesa is at least the fourth Palm Beach County firefighter to file a discrimination or harassment lawsuit

By FireRescue1 Staff

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A firefighter is suing the department he serves over disability discrimination.

WPTV reported that Palm Beach County Fire Rescue firefighter Eduardo Mesa claimed in his lawsuit that a captain discriminated against Mesa’s disability that causes him to experience “eye movements/twitches” that result in "unusual blinking/closing eyes” for a few seconds at a time.

Mesa said the captain harassed him because of his disability during training, asking him "whether he was sleeping or praying.”

The firefighter added that other staff members have discriminated against him because of his religion and nationality as well.

Mesa also said in the lawsuit that he "was intentionally setup to fail during the Performance Objective by this same captain," claiming "a retired friend of the captain's, not an instructor as it typical in training, mismanaged a manual pressure pump lever causing Mesa's working water pressure to be lower than required and delayed, thus causing failing scores in his graded performance objective. No other candidate had a retired/non-instructor manning the pressure pump."

The lawsuit also claims that Mesa’s performance objective run was "intentionally timed late by the Captain, so he could fail out of the academy with less than two weeks remaining of the nine weeks program."

Mesa said he was then forced to reapply for a new recruit class, and claimed that although the captain was no longer his lead instructor, he was "constantly ridiculed by some of the captain's remaining group of instructors for his eye condition/disability regarding the blinking."

"Plaintiff would be made fun of and be accused of falling asleep, praying or 'performing religious rituals,' while his eye would spasm/blink," the lawsuit said.

The Cuban firefighter said he was "falsely accused of stealing crew members' food and was asked if that was what Hispanics do, and whether he was Mexican or Cuban. Plaintiff was asked if stealing food was customary of his culture."

According to the lawsuit, the battalion chief "set him up during an a.m. crew change ... causing Plaintiff to get a written reprimand as ordered by the battalion chief after he had been verbally reprimanded by a station captain."

"He also claims he was set up while on a call (which was also addressed by a station captain only as a verbal reprimand) but it escalated to a written reprimand with recommendation for termination by the Battalion Chief in question," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit added that although Mesa "performed his job at satisfactory or above satisfactory levels during the probationary year," he was "retained at the headquarter station for a longer period than other recruit class members."

The lawsuit is at least the fourth filed against the department or county regarding discrimination and retaliation since 2016.

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