A firefighter has filed a civil suit against the City of Philadelphia over claims that the agency violated an agreement that resolved previous allegations of disparate treatment.

Thomas Patsch, who began working for the fire department in the spring of 1994, claims in his civil action that the department violated an agreement between the parties when the plaintiff was unilaterally transferred to a station far from his residence that is known in firefighting circles as a location home to “misfits and incompetents.”

Patsch, who received several promotions throughout the course of career, including being named acting lieutenant in the fall of 2011 and permanent lieutenant in December of that year, says he and the City of Philadelphia entered into a settlement agreement and release in March 2010 that resolved and settled all matters relating to a complaint the plaintiff had filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in early 2009 alleging race discrimination.

The administrative complaint alleged disparate treatment on the basis of racial harassment by a supervisory lieutenant.

The supervisor is black while the plaintiff is white.

A provision in the settlement agreement stated that Patsch would not be subject to retaliation by the city for his having brought the discrimination and retaliation claims, the lawsuit notes.

It was further covenanted and agreed that the city would not use the administrative complaint or the underlying disciplinary matter in the complaint for any adverse action against Patsch.

The agreement stated that if Patsch was retaliated against between the date of execution of the agreement and 18 months thereafter, he could bring a retaliation claim against the city in federal District Court.

In his lawsuit, Patsch claims that less than one month before the expiration of the non-retaliatory provision in the agreement he was unilaterally moved from Ladder 6 in West Philadelphia, where he had been stationed for about a decade, to Engine 69, which the suit says is located in the “remotest part of South Philadelphia.”

Engine 69, the lawsuit claims, is known as a “punishment fire station, filled with firefighters and supervisors with documented performance problems and demotions, in a zone historically known to have significantly less fire-fighting work.

“Engine 69 station is where the Fire Department banishes its misfits and incompetents who have failed to perform elsewhere, and is therefore replete with safety issues for plaintiff in his supervision of sub-par incompetent firefighters,” the complaint reads. “The Engine 69 assignment, as to plaintiff who has a stellar record, is a derogatory assignment offering virtually no career visibility or opportunity advancement to more preferred, elite fire stations where plaintiff has previously been stationed.”

Patsch claims that the re-assignment to Engine 69 under the previous agreement with the city constitutes an adverse impact in his employment with the fire department.

The defendant in the suit, the City of Philadelphia, is accused of violating the Civil Rights Act.

The complaint contains counts of breach of settlement agreement and release and retaliation for filing the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission complaint.

Patsch seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, interest, injunctive relief, attorney’s fees and costs.

He is being represented by lawyer J. Stephen Woodside.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06955-ER. 

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