tampabay.com

Claims of discrimination dismissed

Two fired paramedics now have 90 days to file a suit against the city, if they so choose.

By DEMORRIS A. LEE
Published August 22, 2006


CLEARWATER - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has dismissed claims by two former Clearwater paramedics that they were fired because they are black.

Trevor Murray and Mike Jones filed complaints against the city of Clearwater in October 2005, saying that federal and state discrimination laws were violated as a result of their firing. They claimed white paramedics facing a similar situation were not fired.

Murray and Jones were fired in May 2005, after they failed to respond to a 911 call from a woman who often called and fictitiously claimed being raped.

As a result of Thursday's EEOC decision, Murray and Jones have 90 days to file suit against the city.

Jones said Monday that he hasn't spoken with his attorney about the decision. Murray did not return phone calls for this report.

"That EEOC complaint was an avenue that my personal attorney was pursing because he felt we were treated differently," Jones said. "I'm focusing on arbitration, which has been my whole thing."

Both Jones and Murray are in an arbitration process with the city in an effort to get their jobs back. They are currently awaiting a decision.

Jones has argued that because he was not the lead paramedic, it wasn't his decision not to go on the call. He said he was simply following orders.

"The EEOC complaint has never been my focus," Jones said. "It was just another avenue in my effort."

The EEOC's dismissal of the complaint doesn't necessarily mean that discrimination did not take place against Murray and Jones, but rather that there wasn't enough evidence to validate the charging parties' claims.

"It's not an exhaustive investigation," said Manuel Zurita, director of the EEOC's Tampa field office. "But it's enough to say our resources should be placed somewhere else."

Eleanor Breland, Clearwater's equity services director, said there is no reason for the city to respond to the EEOC decision.

"That's the end of it for us unless they sue," Breland said. "It does validate our reasons for the action."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at 445-4174 or dalee@sptimes.com.