NYC requests court to dismiss age discrimination lawsuit filed by FDNY chiefs

June 13, 2024
FDNY Bronx New York Fire fighters

“The story of this complaint… is one of the most detailed stories that I have ever seen in a complaint”: Attorney Jim Walden

The city of New York has requested that a judge dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of FDNY chiefs against Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh.

The lawsuit, which alleges age discrimination, claims that senior fire officials were targeted due to their age.

The officials, aged between 54 and 62, filed the complaint in March 2023.

City attorney Hayley Bronner argued in Brooklyn Supreme Court that the complaint lacks evidence to show that the chiefs were specifically targeted because of their age.

Bronner stated: “There is nothing in the allegations that (the chiefs) were replaced by anyone younger or that they were targeted because of their age.”

Plaintiffs argue pattern of discriminatory behavior

Attorney Jim Walden, representing the FDNY chiefs, accused the city of downplaying the allegations by focusing on the lack of specificity in the complaint.

Walden said: “The story of this complaint, the arc of the behavior is a wide-ranging conspiracy that is one of the most detailed stories that I have ever seen in a complaint.”

The lawsuit, filed by Assistant Fire Chiefs Michael Gala, Joseph Jardin, Michael Massucci, Frank Leeb, EMS Computer Aided Dispatch Programming Manager Deputy Director Carla Murphy, and retired EMS Chief James Booth, claims that these senior officials faced harassment, demotion, and adverse actions due to their age.

Booth has been removed from the lawsuit as his claims exceeded the four-year statute of limitations.

City defends against claims of widespread ageism

The city maintains that the lawsuit includes allegations about other FDNY employees to strengthen the age discrimination argument but does not provide direct evidence of discrimination.

The city attorney argued: “It is not enough for the plaintiff to say: I belong to a protected class; something bad happened to me at work; therefore, it must have occurred because I belong to a protected class.”

Walden disagreed, stating that the allegations show a consistent pattern of discrimination against older members of the department.

He remarked: “We have 20 people all experiencing similar acts of adversity and discrimination.”

Judge Patria Frias-Colón is expected to decide on the city’s motion to dismiss the case in the coming weeks.

Over the past year, the judge has ordered some parts of the lawsuit to be removed, including allegations of fast-tracking fire inspections for businesses with ties to the Adams administration, as these did not relate directly to the ageism claims.

FDNY egal strategies and public responses

Outside the court, Walden called the city’s dismissal motion a “delay tactic” and expressed hope that the court would move forward with the discovery process.

He stated: “We’re hoping that the real takeaway here is not just that the complaint is upheld, which it should be, but that the court says ‘Enough is enough’ to the city and put us on a discovery schedule so we can find the actual underlying evidence.”

The FDNY has consistently labeled the chiefs’ lawsuit as “baseless” and an attempt to undermine the Fire Commissioner’s authority.

The lawsuit followed the demotion of Gala, Jardin, and Assistant Chief Fred Schaaf to deputy chief, which led to a protest by FDNY chiefs.

These chiefs requested demotion in rank and relocation out of department headquarters, but Kavanagh has not approved any of these requests.

Read Next

Subscribe Now