Black, Gay SF Firefighter Sues City for Discrimination, Harassment

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday January 27, 2021

A Black, gay firefighter in San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against the city citing harassment and discrimination in the work place, CBS SF BayArea News reports.

Keith Baraka said that in his 23 years employed by San Francisco Fire Department, the 11 years he worked at Station 6 in the Castro District — the city's historically LGBTQ neighborhood — were riddled with "a nightmarish series of events" that started when he placed a rainbow pride sticker on his helmet as a show of solidarity with the community the station serves.

Baraka said he was harassed with derogatory names and racial slurs, that his locker had been broken into several times with his belongings either stolen or destroyed. In his court filing, he also alleges that when he entered the firehouse kitchen, his "non-Black" co-workers "would all stand up and leave." Furthermore, he alleges that complaints to the station led to retaliation — being denied promotions and other opportunities in the department, as well as receiving lower pay and disciplinary action that appeared to be arbitrary.

When Baraka requested reassignment, he was placed with another station where he "experience a different culture" where he felt "valued and respected." He and other employees formed "ResQ" in 2014, a group to support LGBTQ employees and "fight the discrimination they were experiencing in the Department."

Originally filed in November 2020, as CBS notes, Baraka "recently amended it to drop his claims for punitive damages and for intentional infliction of emotional distress."

The city disputes Baraka's lawsuit, and has said they will address his claims in court.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.