Discrimination | Firefighters | New York | News

Gay NY Firefighter Files Seven-Figure Discrimination Lawsuit

Steven Saunders, a third-generation firefighter from White Plains, New York, is seeking seven figures in a lawsuit agains the city and the Fire Department, alleging anti-gay discrimination and harassment, the Journal News reports:

Saunders Saunders, a 17-year fire veteran and the father of three, said he is suing, in part, to "send a message to my children not to be afraid to stand up for who you are."

In papers filed in state Supreme Court, Saunders, 43, said that after rumors about his sexuality began spreading in 2008, he informed his superiors that he was gay and was told by Deputy Fire Chief Richard Houlihan not to tell anyone, "especially anyone in the Fire Bureau."

The lawsuit alleges that, without permission, Houlihan then "outed" Saunders by telling others in the department that he was gay.

After his sexual identity became known, the suit claims, Saunders was subjected to mocking and abuse by a number of firefighters who made obscene cracks and gestures about his homosexuality. Despite his complaints about it, the court papers say, supervisors did nothing to stop it.

Saunders said that after complaining he was made Houlihan's driver and told to "keep [his] mouth shut...because everyone gets teased — Blacks, Hispanics and Italians."

The claims in Saunders' lawsuit will reach seven figures, according to his legal team.

Watch an ABC7 news report, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. I'm guessing he wasn't in the fireman's calendar. Yikes. If a building was on fire, he could just roll over it.

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 12, 2011 11:03:24 AM


    **********I am the real Ratbastard. I DID NOT POST THE ABOVE COMMENT***********

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 12, 2011 11:05:34 AM

  3. "Everyone gets teased"-----unless you're a white heterosexual Christian male. I doubt these firefighters tease them. But, that's the mind of the privileged bigot for you. It's OK for me to tease you, you're not straight. It's OK for me to tease you, you're Hispanic, not white.

    Firefighters/police force/military etc. are mostly made up of good 'ole boy conservative types so sadly, the numerous cases of discrimination against LGBT individuals in these fields isn't a surprise at all. Guess the only way these bigots will learn is by being hit in the pockets.

    Posted by: Francis | May 12, 2011 11:05:35 AM

  4. @Francis,

    White heterosexual Christian males are mocked and made fun of ALL THE TIME. There are even LAWS that allow legal discrimination against them in employment, laws that hold them to a higher standard, require them to have higher test scores, etc.,

    You have your head up your a**, Francis.

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 12, 2011 11:09:09 AM

  5. I hope he wins.....and wins BIG! Situations like that can be unbearable. Its time to send a message of respect for all people to love who they want to love. This type of harassment and bigotry is outdated and has to go........Good luck to him and his future.

    Posted by: Casper | May 12, 2011 11:09:50 AM

  6. @Francis,

    Where I live there are PLENTY of non-white firefighters and police. But I suspect many of the 'minority' police and firefighters are just as 'Good Ol' Boy' as the whites. When you deal with the woorst aspects of human nature and the general public day after day like cops do, you sour on a lot of 'liberal' thought.

    Posted by: ratbastard | May 12, 2011 11:14:42 AM

  7. @RATBASTARD Glad you have it all figured out.

    Posted by: Carlie | May 12, 2011 11:25:32 AM

  8. These cases settle out for about $50k normally. Actual discrimination involves firings, demotions, untenable work conditions, physical or sexual abuse (also a separate tort) or the intentional infliction of emotional harm. However, as the claims largely address the actions of coworkers, the only true claim is negligence. The city will have a certain amount of insurance and both sides will work off that number.

    Posted by: anon | May 12, 2011 12:17:20 PM

  9. If Steven Saunders has solid evidence, he should be able to get a big settlement. There is such an abundant and well-documented history of discrimination in the NYFD against women, racial minorities, and LGBT people that the burden of proof will be easy to meet and punitive damages could be substantial.

    Posted by: Jester | May 12, 2011 2:10:35 PM

  10. Although its not right - "everyone gets teased" is a true statement with firemen and cops etc(unlike white collar jobs). Its very much like a "boys club." They tease you cause you're a "dirty irish" or "dirty italian" or whatever. It's a very old way of thinking obviously (ie original immigrants) but it still happens in these professions today. They kind of see it as a frat organization and "teasing," not harrassing.

    Posted by: jj | May 12, 2011 2:37:00 PM

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