KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A black Kansas City firefighter who alleged he wasn't promoted because of his race has been awarded more than $350,000 in compensatory damages.
Jurors ordered the payout Wednesday for firetruck driver Tarshish Jones, The Kansas City Star reported. When he sued in 2015, he had been employed by the Kansas City Fire Department for 17 years and had been eligible for captain for 12 of those years. He took the captain's test five times and scored high on objective testing. But the suit said Jones was marked down in oral sections that involve responding to questions in front of a video camera "because he is African-American."
The suit says white officers with less experience and lower written scores have been promoted. Jones still hasn't.
City spokesman Chris Hernandez declined to comment because of the possibility of an appeal.
Jones's attorney, Lynne Bratcher, said the fire department is "doing nothing to make sure that African Americans have a fair shake."
Bratcher said 13.5 percent of the department's 1,356 employees are African-American, while the city's population is about 30 percent African-American. They also are underrepresented in leadership roles, Bratcher said. For instance, only 7.5 percent of the 199 captains are African-American.
The captain's test is given every two years and 2012 and 2014 are the two years Jones sued over. The jury agreed he was discriminated against in 2012, when his video test was assessed by department insiders, but not in 2014, when those outside the department reviewed it. The jury declined to award punitive damages.
Fire Chief Paul Berardi said in an email to the department's administration that he was disappointed in the verdict but urged that Jones continue to be treated in a "professional and warm manner."
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com