A San Francisco firefighter filed a lawsuit against The City of San Francisco after he says he was harassed and discriminated against in the workplace because he is gay and Black.
Keith Baraka, a 23-year employee of the San Francisco Fire Department, alleges in the lawsuit filed Jan. 19 that during the nearly 11 years he served at Station 6, a fire station in the Castro District, he experienced “a nightmarish series of events” beginning after he put a rainbow Pride sticker on his helmet “to communicate that he was member of the community that was being served by Station 6.”
Baraka alleges that his co-workers and supervisors harassed him and referred to him with derogatory names and racial slurs.
His fire station locker was broken into repeatedly and his belongings stolen or destroyed.
According to his court filing, when he entered the firehouse kitchen and greeted the “non-black” occupants, “they would all stand up and leave.”
The City disputes his claims.
Baraka also alleges that his complaints to station leadership led to retaliation against him, including the denial of promotions and other employment opportunities within the department. Those actions were part of what he alleges to be “rampant discrimination within the department.”
“This treatment occurred within the ranks of his peers and was further sanctioned by his supervisors,” the complaint says.
Baraka requested a new assignment and was moved to another fire station where he “experienced a different culture” and felt “valued and respected.”
In 2014, he and several other employees formed a group called “ResQ” to support LGBTQ employees and to “fight the discrimination they were experiencing in the department.”
“Baraka alleges that the work of ResQ was recognized and commended by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and also by the department leadership,” reports the SF Examinier. “But despite this, Baraka alleges he that experienced discrimination in his attempt to advance within the department, including receiving lower pay and arbitrary discipline.”
In his court filing, Baraka alleges that he filed six separate complaints of discrimination with the San Francisco Department of Human Resources during his career.