White Firefighter to Get a Trial on Bias Claim

Nancy Bartley, Seattle Times, February 20, 2009

A Seattle firefighter who was the top scorer on a promotional test but was denied promotion, while a lower-scoring African-American co-worker was promoted, has won his appeal and will have a trial in his case against the city.

Court of Appeals Division I this week reversed a King County Superior Court summary judgment and found in favor of Kevin Dumont, a white firefighter for the city of Seattle.

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In 2003 Dumont scored 99 on the Civil Service test and received an additional 6 points for in-service qualifications, for 105 out of a possible 110, highest of any candidates for promotion, according to the Court of Appeals documents.

But he was passed over for the job as fireboat engineer in favor of Eric Lanier. Lanier, court documents say, scored 83.9 on the test but received the maximum 10 points for in-service qualifications for a total of 93.9, which ranked him third on the promotion list.

Then-Fire Chief Gary Morris interviewed Lanier and Dumont, who both worked as deckhands on the fire boat, and promoted Lanier. He did so, court documents say, after Initiative 200 went into effect.

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According to court documents, Dumont had no disciplinary complaints in his file, but Lanier’s personnel file showed he had been subjected to official discipline 17 times during his career, including two suspensions.

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Before Dumont filed his lawsuit, Morris made 45 promotions to competitive positions, promoting the top-scoring applicant on the Civil Service Commission list in 41 of the 45 instances.

In the other four instances, the promoted person was a racial or ethnic minority, while the top-scoring person was a white male, court documents say.

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