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Veteran Black firefighter sues City of Everett alleging racial discrimination

Jason Anderson started work at the Everett Fire Department in 2003 and claims soon after he started, his coworkers and superiors started making racist comments.

EVERETT, Wash. — A veteran firefighter with the Everett Fire Department has filed a lawsuit against the City of Everett alleging he was discriminated against by his coworkers and superiors because he's Black.

Jason Anderson was hired in 2003, and at that time he was only the fourth or fifth Black firefighter ever hired by the department, according to the civil rights lawsuit filed on Jan. 13 in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Soon after he started, his coworkers and supervisors began making comments about his race and color, including his then-captain who said he was the "whitest Black guy he'd ever seen," court documents said.

A sticker of a gorilla dressed as a firefighter also appeared on Anderson's locker at the firehouse, according to court documents, promoting one of the oldest racist stereotypes that compares Black people to apes.

According to the lawsuit, when Anderson reported the harassing conduct to his battalion chief in 2019, he was told, "we've all heard offensive comments" and to "suck it up." 

Anderson later reported the harassment to the department's chief, as well as the city's human resources department and the mayor. 

Not only did the city not take any corrective action, according to the lawsuit, but after Anderson made the report, a fire department captain sent an email telling firefighters to, "resist adding outrage culture into the amazing work environment that we have."  

Since then, the lawsuit said Anderson has received the "silent treatment" at work and he has been unfairly scrutinized and downgraded in his performance. 

Anderson is suing the city for compensatory and punitive damages. 

The City of Everett released the following statement to KING 5 regarding the lawsuit: "The City of Everett strives to provide a safe and inclusive work environment for all of our employees. We have zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination. We take these allegations seriously and are investigating them thoroughly."