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Kansas City Fire Department Sued In Federal Court For Pattern Of Racial Discrimination

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3
A federal lawsuit alleges the Kansas City Fire Department discriminated against African-American employees.

A former 23-year veteran employee of the Kansas City Fire Department is suing the department for racial discrimination.

In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Travis Yeargans, who is black, says he's not the only one who has been discriminated against. The lawsuit claims KCFD has a "pattern and practice of not promoting African-Americans to any position above firetruck driver due to race."

Yeargans was promoted in 1996 to driver but never to captain. The lawsuit says he made several attempts to get the promotion.

It alleges Yeargans and other black candidates were "underscored" on oral and written exams and white candidates were "overscored." It also points out that African-Americans make up  only 7.8 percent of KCFD captains and 13.5 percent of the entire department. 

Without a promotion after more than two decades, Yeargans "felt he must resign" in March 2014. 

The suit alleges KCFD violated Yeargans constitutional rights of due process and equal protection. It also alleges the failure to promote Yeargans caused him humiliation, stress, and a loss in benefits, pension and wages. He is seeking an unspecified amount for damages. 

Last year, another KCFD firetruck driver was awarded nearly $400,000 in compensatory damages after filing a lawsuit in 2015. Tarshish Jones, a 17-year employee at the time, alleged similar racial discrimination from the department. A jury ruled in favor of Jones, resulting in the award.

In April, the city appealed the judgment to the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The Kansas City Fire Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
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