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'Nightmarish': Gay, Black SF Firefighter Sues Over Alleged Discrimination At Castro Station

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN/CBS SF) -- A San Francisco firefighter who contends that he was harassed and discriminated against in the workplace because he is gay and Black filed an amended lawsuit last week against the City of San Francisco.

Keith Baraka, a 23-year employee of the San Francisco Fire Department, alleges in the lawsuit filed Jan. 19 that during the nearly 11 years he served at Station 6, a fire station in the Castro District, he experienced "a nightmarish series of events" beginning after he put a rainbow pride sticker on his helmet "to communicate that he was member of the community that was being served by Station 6."

He alleges that co-workers and supervisors harassed him and referred to him with derogatory names and racial slurs. His locker was broken into repeatedly and his belongings stolen or destroyed. According to his court filing, when he entered the firehouse kitchen and greeted the "non-black" occupants, "they would all stand up and leave."

The city disputes the claims.

Baraka alleges that his complaints to station leadership led to retaliation against him, including the denial of promotions and other employment opportunities within the department. Those actions were part of what he alleges to be "rampant discrimination within the Department."

Baraka requested a new assignment and was moved to another fire station where he "experienced a different culture" and he felt "valued and respected." In 2014, he and several other employees formed a group called "ResQ" to support LGBTQ employees and to "fight the discrimination they were experiencing in the Department."

Baraka alleges that the work of ResQ was recognized and commended by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and also by the department leadership. Notwithstanding, Baraka alleges he that experienced discrimination in his attempt to advance within the department, including receiving lower pay and arbitrary discipline.

In his court filing, Baraka alleges that during his years of service he filed six separate complaints of discrimination with the San Francisco Department of Human Resources.

Baraka initially filed the lawsuit in November 2020 and recently amended it to drop his claims for punitive damages and for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office said, "Privacy protections in personnel matters limit what we can publicly say, and we're not going to try this case in the press. Mr. Baraka brought this complaint in a court of law, so that is where we will address it."

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