A white firefighter is suing the city, alleging he a suffered backlash in 2017 when he complained that a black colleague had harassed him by threatening to drop a bomb on him and saying she would have beaten him up if he was a female.
James Sharlein’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and that some of the alleged misconduct was racially motivated. Also named as a defendant is the female firefighter, Ta’Ana Mitchell.
A representative for the City Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the suit, which was filed Friday and seeks unspecified damages.
Sharlein worked at fire station 50 when Mitchell was assigned there in December 2017 as a probationary firefighter, according to his court papers. That same month, she began making inappropriate remarks about him, including “I wanted to drop a bomb on Sharlein” and “If he was a girl, I would have beat his (epithet),” both of which were made in the presence of the plaintiff and an LAFD supervisor, the suit alleges.
Mitchell also said she wanted to sock Sharlein in the face and that her brother, who recently was released from jail, wanted to beat him up, according to the complaint.
Mitchell told black members of the LAFD command staff that the plaintiff was harassing her, an allegation she knew was untrue, the suit says.
LAFD management knew or should have known of Mitchell’s alleged misconduct, but failed to take steps to stop it even after Sharlein complained, according to the lawsuit.
“The … city of Los Angeles and the LAFD failed and refused to follow their own policies, practices and procedures,” according to the lawsuit.
Instead of helping Sharlein, LAFD management denied him promotions to favored positions and transferred him to less favorable and “potentially more dangerous” work locations, the suit alleges.
Sharlein also alleges that he was denied chances to earn overtime pay, falsely accused of spreading gossip and rumors about another firefighter and subjected to improper investigations.
A “substantial motivating reason” for the city and LAFD to subject Sharlein to adverse employment conditions was his race and gender, the suit alleges.