JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As part of a settlement in one of several federal discrimination lawsuits filed against the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, one firefighter will be awarded $100,000, News4Jax learned on Friday.
City attorneys declined to comment, but Jacksonville City Council legislation says it would be cheaper to settle the case than take the risk of fighting it in court.
It's just one of several suits in the federal pipeline and News4Jax was told other settlements are in the works.
For decades, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department has been under fire for its hiring and promotion practices. Several federal lawsuit are still being heard about discriminatory practice in the department .
Firefighter Winston Judge was one of those who originally filed suit against the city for discrimination and followed up with a second suit in which he claims he was harassed about having done that. Now News4Jax has learned his second lawsuit is about to be settled out of court for $100,000. It's waiting for the Jacksonville City Council's approval.
That suit states Judge was constantly harassed after he had taken part in the original federal lawsuit against the department. It also states Judge was hit by a high-pressure water stream when another firefighter opened it up on him in retaliation for his actions.
According to the suit, Judge was transferred from his assigned station for no reason. It claims he was disciplined for actions that others who did the same were not disciplined and states he was subjected to different work standards.
When asked about the settlement, the chief of the fire department said Friday that the agency has no comment since it has not been approved by the City Council at this point.
Judge, who is still employed by JFRD, told News4Jax by phone that he did not want to comment about the proposed settlement.
He is not a union member, but News4Jax asked the head of the local fire union about the settlement, "There were lots of allegations in the suit about harassment. Do things like that happen in the department?"
Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, replied, "Yes, every once in a while it does happen from an aspect of what a person believes or perceives to what is occurring. And they have the right to be able to do that and members have a right to grieve certain things. We do that all the time and some people choose to go to the way of the court."
The much larger federal discrimination lawsuit still pending. Even though there was a tentative agreement last year, News4JAx heard they are close to working out the details and have not signed off yet. News4Jax was told that settlement could end up costing Jacksonville more than $4 million, but officials will not comment about that.