A former Montgomery firefighter said he was awarded more than just $1,000 when a jury decided in his favor this week. Christopher Rush said that, more importantly, the jury validated his belief that he was treated differently because of his race. A federal jury did not feel compelled to award Rush, who is white, the $100,000 that he requested, but it did decide that Rush’s race was a factor in the city’s decision to suspend him for a racial slur he made while on the job. Rush alleged he was more severely punished than another firefighter who made a racial comment about a white firefighter at work.
“Even though I didn’t receive a large amount of money, it was all about the principle of the matter,” Rush said this week.
“I hope all the employees are treated the same. I hope there is some kind of policy and regs (implemented) where everybody is treated equally across the board,” Rush also said.
Rush was suspended without pay for 29 days in late 2006 for a comment he made to another white firefighter.
The other firefighter asked Rush about a cut on his neck, and Rush responded that he had been cut by “some (N-word),” according to Rush’s complaint.
A black firefighter overhead the comment, and Rush then apologized to him.
In May 2007, a black firefighter made a racial comment to a white firefighter but was not as severely punished, according to the complaint. The firefighter jumped up from his seat when the white fireman entered a day room at a fire station and said “You scared me with that haircut. You look just like a Klansman,” according to the complaint.
“(The black firefighter) did not receive time off without pay and thus was treated differently than (Rush) for the very same offense,” according to the complaint.
City attorney Kim Fehl said Friday that she could not comment on the case because it is still pending, since the city has asked the judge to review the matter because of what it perceives as insufficient evidence. The judge, Mark Fuller, has the option of overruling the jury’s decision.
A message left with Montgomery Fire Chief Miford Jordan, who was initially named as a defendant but who has since been dismissed, was not returned as of press time Friday.
Meanwhile, Rush said he has moved on with his life and his career. After the incident, the six-year veteran left his position with the Montgomery Fire Department and started working with the Prattville Police Department.
Montgomery attorney Peyton Faulk represented Rush.