Department of Justice SealDepartment of Justice
Friday, May 23, 2008
(202) 514-2007
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DOJ Settles Lawsuit with Robertson Fire Protection District of St. Louis for Racially Based Discrimination and Retaliation

WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice today announced a consent decree with the Robertson Fire Protection District (Robertson), that, if approved by the U.S. District Court in St. Louis, will resolve a lawsuit in which the United States alleged that Robertson had engaged in racial discrimination and retaliation against two black former fire inspectors, Ephraim Woods Jr. and Lamont Downer.

The United States’ complaint alleged that Woods and Downer, who were employed as fire inspectors between 1999 and 2004, were demoted to firefighter in June 2004 because of their race and because they had filed charges of race discrimination and retaliation against Robertson with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

"The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue those who commit employment discrimination. Mr. Wood and Mr. Downer should be able to pursue their careers in fire safety without racial discrimination or retaliation," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

"Compliance with Title VII’s anti-discrimination provisions is mandatory. We will not permit publicly-funded employers, particularly public safety agencies, to discriminate against employees because of their race or because they complain about what they reasonably believe to be race discrimination or retaliation," said Catherine L. Hanaway, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The consent decree, if approved by the court, prohibits Robertson from discriminating against employees on the basis of race and retaliating against employees who complain of discrimination or who assisted the United States in this lawsuit. The consent decree also requires that Robertson adopt policies and procedures that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or retaliation; designate an individual who will be responsible for ensuring that Robertson implements and complies with those new policies and procedures; and provide mandatory training regarding race discrimination and retaliation to all employees, supervisors and directors.

In addition, as part of the agreement, the defendant will provide monetary awards to Woods and Downer and will provide each with a neutral job reference.

The continued enforcement of Title VII has been a priority of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at