A lawsuit was filed in Union County Superior Court this week alleging that Linden allowed its fire department to become a "racist environment."
The suit, announced at a press conference hosted by the New Jersey Clergy Coalition for Justice, was filed by two former firefighters, both African-American, who say they were regularly exposed to racist treatment, including use of the N-word by the former chief, Joseph Dooley.
The firefighters, Joseph Braxton and Mark Bullock, say that they were exposed to racist jokes and comments on a near-daily basis and were then threatened when they complained. Dooley also allegedly made disparaging remarks about other minority groups and women.
Bullock resigned from the department late last year over unresolved issues with Dooley, the suit states. Braxton was hospitalized for nearly a week in April and has not been back to work since. He was terminated from the department.
The firefighters, two of the few African-Americans to ever serve on the department, said they were subject to other forms of discrimination that worsened when Dooley became chief four years ago, including getting regularly getting assigned to under-staffed shifts.
Dooley left the department a few months ago after meeting with Mayor Derek Armstead, Armstead said.
"Several months ago Chief Dooley and I sat down and discussed Chief Dooley retiring and he did just that as of Sept. 30, 2019. Moving forward, the new Chief William Hasko is working with me in putting together a plan to address the concerns that have arisen in the fire department. And I am confident that we will be successful in making Linden more fair and equitable for everyone," Armstead said in a statement reported by mycentraljersey.com.
The firefighters are seeking compensation including back pay, reinstatement to the department, restoration of seniority and restoration of benefits.
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